News / Africa

Zimbabwe Mines Minister Says Human Rights Groups Tried to Bribe Him

Zimbabwe's mines minister says two international human-rights groups tried to bribe him over Zimbabwe's controversial diamonds in the Marange area in south Eastern Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe Mines Minister Obert Mpofu claimed in the pro-ZANU-PF Sunday Mail in Harare that two international rights organizations, Human Rights Watch and Partnership Africa Canada, tried to "bribe" him at the Kimberley Process Certification conference in Tel Aviv to financially support their work.  Mpofu, who is a top member of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF, is trying to persuade the international regulator, the Kimberley Process, to certify its stockpile of diamonds for export.  Mpofu made his 'bribe' allegation after returning to Zimbabwe from a Kimberley Process conference in Tel Aviv that deadlocked on certification of Zimbabwe's diamonds from the Marange area.

Alan Martin, from Partnership Africa Canada, denied Sunday any bribe was offered to Mpofu.  Martin said civil-rights groups oppose certification of diamonds from the Marange area because they are not compliant with the Kimberley Process, which tries to stop sales of so-called 'blood diamonds."  He said the Kimberley Process monitor, South African Abbey Chikane, who cleared Zimbabwe to export the rough stones from Marange, had ignored smuggling of diamonds from Zimbabwe.

Human-rights groups monitoring the Marange diamonds say they were astonished when respected Israeli diamond analyst Chaim Even-Zohar last week backed Zimbabwe's bid for its diamonds to be certified by the Kimberley Process.  Even-Zohar said if the Zimbabwe diamonds were not exported legally they would all be smuggled out and would upset the prices of diamonds on the international market during a world wide recession.

Even-Zohar said the Kimberley Process is not a human-rights organization and its mandates assumed sovereign and legitimate governments were, as he put it, "OK."  He said the Kimberley Process only has mechanisms to deal with rebel groups using diamonds to oppose or undermine sovereign governments.  Even-Zohar said the Kimberley Process has no mechanism to deal with a country like Zimbabwe, which is itself what he called a "rogue actor."

De Beers diamond group executive director Jonathan Oppenheimer said Sunday there is "concern" over diamond mining in Zimbabwe, but there is no "blood diamond conflic" and there is a legitimate government in place in Harare.  He said the Kimberley Process is therefore in a difficult position.

Human Rights Watch claims harassment is continuing in Marange and that some informal miners are forced to hand over any rough stones they find to members of Mr. Mugabe's army.  Its recent report says those stones are then sold on the black market.

Civil rights groups say many miners have been killed by Mr. Mugabe's security forces in the Marange diamond fields.

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