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Army plans new Chiadzwa crackdown: radio
13/07/2009 00:00:00
by Lebo Nkatazo
Crackdown ... A man inspects raw diamonds from Chiadzwa

ZIMBABWE is relaunching a military crackdown on illegal diamond hunters in the eastern region – risking renewed criticism from human rights groups, state radio reported on Monday.

Following the launch of Operation Hakudzokwi (No Return) in Marange last year, human rights groups say dozens of panners were killed by troops, although the government insists there is no evidence of this.

Only last week, the international diamond certification group, the Kimberly Process, released a preliminary report accusing the army and police of looting diamonds in the area.

The KP report also said the security forces had committed human rights abuses and recommended their withdrawal from the zone.

But in a report on Monday, ZBC radio reported: “Operation Hakudzokwi which was jointly carried by security personnel to restore sanity at Chiadzwa diamond fields is bouncing back bigger and more re-invigorated to deal once and for all with illegal diamond dealers and panners, says the Governor and Resident Minister for Manicaland province, Cde Chris Mushohwe.”

Mushohwe was not immediately available for comment. State radio said Mushowe had given “a strong warning to illegal diamond dealers and panners to stop forthwith their unlawful activities as they will have no-one but themselves to blame when operation Hakudzokwi is re-energised and reinvigorated.”

Following the launch of the operation last year, Herald columnists Nathaniel Manheru -- thought to be President Robert Mugabe’s press secretary George Charamba -- described Marange as the “wild-wild East” where security forces were employing “shock therapy” against panners.

He wrote that captured diggers were being made to use their bare fingers to refill gullies they dug.


“The deep gullies are being refilled with bare hands and fingers are sore and finishing, well before a quarter of the job is done,” Manheru said before declaring: “I do not think diamond hunters will descend on Chiadzwa ever again.”

In a report released on June 26, Human Rights Watch said when the operation began last year, the government deployed more than 800 soldiers drawn from three army units – the Mechanised Brigade and No. 1 Commando Regiment, both based in Harare, and the Kwekwe-based Fifth Brigade -- carried out the operation under the overall command of Air Marshal Perence Shiri and General Constantine Chiwenga, commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

The report said in part: “Military abuses in Marange also included denial of medical care to victims of abuse in the community, including those who sustained dog-bite wounds and wounds from beatings or gunshots.

“Nurses based in the local community told Human Rights Watch that soldiers instructed them not to render medical care to any person who sustained injury by whatever means on the diamond fields.”

In January, the state-run Herald newspaper claimed that more than 35,000 people had been arrested under Operation Hakudzokwi.

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