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Features

Zimbabwe: A tale of two Chinas

Khadija Sharife

2011-09-29, Issue 550

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/76739

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Khadija Sharife takes a closer look at the involvement of key players in Zanu PF’s Mugabe faction in a diamond-mining venture between the Zimbabwean government and Chinese company, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Co. Ltd.

‘The last time I spoke to my mum, she said “mwanangu tichiri musango” – meaning my son, we are still in the bush,’ said 'China', a Zimbabwean civil society activist based in South Africa.

In late March this year, China's mother was forced to flee death in Mbare, on the outskirts of Harare, after yet another Zanu PF pogrom. Born in the Eastern highlands of Zimbabwe, literally on the doorstep of Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields – valued at US$800 billion, ‘China’ – now a colleague at the Center for Civil Society (CCS) in South Africa, remarked that he had 'never seen the fields'.

But Zimbabwe is home to another China, too.

This article can reveal, for the first time, that key members of Mugabe's faction, including Emmerson Mnangagwa, General Constantine Chiwenga of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and key architect of the opaque Joint Operations Command (JOC), and Colonel Sedze – a senior member of the ZNA, allegedly represent the top military personnel involved in the daily management and operations of another Chinese company mining for diamonds, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Co. Ltd, via a joint venture with the Zimbabwean government, known as Anjin.

In April, the same month that Anjin – the second company to begin diamond mining – declared record outputs of one million carats, Chiwenga was flown to China for emergency medical treatment. Our sources claimed that Chiwenga's many trips to China, of late, were in fact designed to acquire other types of specialist help, including, to sign military deals which among other things include the purchase of arms for the ZNA.

High-level sources in Zimbabwe revealed that Anjin – a joint venture, began operations in 2009 with a 10,000 hectare claim at Chirasika in Marange. The company subsequently discovered new diamond deposits in Chiadzwa at a location known by panners as 'Jesi'.

A wide gravel road, connecting Jesi to the main plant Chirasika, has been constructed. The excavated gravel is ferried in dumpers to the main plant at Chirasika, where the processing and separation of diamonds is simultaneously carried out. The company, stated our high-level sources, currently boasts more than 30,000 hectares of prospected diamond fields with 25 years of projected diamond mining. The company has a staff of 188 Chinese nationals and 285 Zimbabweans.

Our sources alleged that shareholding at Anjin 'was largely a private affair between China and Zimbabwe' but that the strong presence of the military ‘was blatantly evident.' Sedze, for instance, was not only the head of security operations at the company, but also the head of the government's food relief programme for the province, Operation Mugata.

'Both the head of the human resource department, his deputy and other senior managers at Anjin are active senior members of the Zimbabwe National Army. The command structure in the administration of Anjin diamonds on the part of Zimbabwe is military in nature,' alleged one high-level contact who preferred to remain anonymous, citing threats to his life.

The company, we learned, is said to operate using a dual form of administration: The Chinese run their own affairs in terms of staff management, while the Zimbabwean military manages security-related issues. Labour relations between Chinese staff and local Zimbabweans were reported to be very tense due to China's alleged 'importing' of professionals with 'suspect' qualifications, appointed to technical positions such as mine engineers, geologists etc. The low salaries paid to these staff artificially deflated the salaries due to Zimbabwean professionals working in the same sector at the company.

The situation allegedly, claimed our sources, led to Mugabe's demanding a list of Chinese staff members working at the mine, for verification and quality assessment purposes. According to our sources, 'the Chinese embarrassingly failed to produce this when Mugabe visited the mine in February.'

Wages remitted to unskilled workers were estimated at US$88 per fortnight. Semi-skilled workers and others reportedly received as much as US$280 per fortnight, with skilled workers receiving close to US$1,000 per month. The local geologist recently resigned allegedly due to poor remuneration.

One of our sources claimed that, ‘In January 2011 the president addressed the chiefs’ conference in Kariba and briefed them on the situation in Marange highlighting that the company had not started mining diamonds at Chiadzwa but was busy building houses for resettling people at Arda Transau in Odzi.' One month later in February, the government announced that the company had a stockpile of one million carats and was awaiting Kimberley Process certification.

One source, imprisoned by the Zimbabwean government, stated of Anjin, ‘It is widely speculated that the employees work for the Chinese army. There is no clue as to the volume of diamonds that have been mined by Anjin to date, no public knowledge on where the gems are being stored and no information of whether these diamonds have been sold as yet.’

Another imprisoned diamond researcher, and human rights activist, described by The Economist magazine as a “first class” source, is Zimbabwe's Farai Maguwu, director of the Marange-based Center for Research and Development (CRD). ‘Whilst I can't commit myself to mentioning names, our observations indicate that some very senior military personnel and well placed politicians are directly involved in the mining operations of Anjin. The involvement of the army in diamond mining in Marange is the saddest thing that has happened to the find of the century,’ he said.

Maguwu's story is revealing about the forces at play: He was arrested as an enemy of the state in 2010, allegedly for 'endangering national security' by holding information pertaining to the Zimbabwean military's gross human rights violation at Marange's diamond mines. Maguwu's arrest came about when the Kimberley Process's appointed monitor, Abbey Chikane, arranged for Maguwu to meet him at a place and time coordinated by Chikane, a former South African diamond business magnate.

When Maguwu arrived, he found that Zimbabwean state intelligence officials would also be present.

Maguwu believed – and publicly stated – that he had been 'set up' by Chikane. Chikane, brother of Frank Chikane, former director-general in the Office of the President, informed Maguwu that the meeting was confidential. In fact, it was precisely the kind of meeting Zimbabwe's KP monitor should have been conducting – and in complete secrecy, to properly assess the situation. Maguwu did not hand over the document Chikane allegedly claimed to have received from him – a 'state security document' drafted by the army. Yet as Maguwu would reveal, Chikane fished after the said document at the meeting.

‘I immediately felt insecure and the following morning a truckload full of men in suits pitched up at my home and they were armed to the teeth’he said to the media at the time. ‘They went on to beat my relatives at home and they took one of them into custody and they kept him in the police cells, beating him for about four days.’ Maguwu claimed that Chikane was part of the 'gravy train...there must be something that is going on behind the scenes between Abbey Chikane and the ZANU PF officials who are plundering Marange diamonds.'

Ironically, Chikane was not given a mandate by the KP to assess Zimbabwe's diamond mining activities for the intention of conditional sales – granted twice in 2010.

While charges against Maguwu would be dropped, eventually, after considerable international lobbying by major local and international NGOs and civil society movements, it begs several questions: Why did Chikane unilaterally seek to approve KP diamonds, going so far as to jeopardise the legitimacy of the KP system? And why was he not removed from his position for doing so? Similarly, why did the KP monitor endanger Zimbabwe's primary whistle-blower, and do so with basically no repercussions from within the KP?

The KP secretariat did not respond at the time of publication. One source close to the KP – and active within the system in previous years, stated – when asked whether Chikane may in fact have been part of the 'gravy train' – ‘It was not clear to me whether Chikane turned Farai in because he was scared by what Farai told him (i.e. for his own safety), or whether it was because he had the kind of connections suggested. Chikane is certainly well connected, very wealthy. He should never have been made KP monitor.’

Ian Smillie, known as one of the world's leading conflict diamond experts and a key architect of the Kimberley Process (KP) said, ‘We don't know where all the diamonds went that were “approved” by Abbey Chikane. Chikane was a mistake on several levels. He was closely allied with the Government of South Africa, which had demonstrated a pathological inability to be critical of Zimbabwe's horrendous human rights abuse in Marange.

‘And he has extensive personal business interests in the Southern African diamond industry that should have disqualified him from the outset,’ he said.

Smillie stated that while some in the KP perceived Chikane – a past chair of the KP – as an inspired choice as 'special monitor', he was selected only after the KP allowed Zimbabwe to reject one well-qualified candidate (on the basis of his British nationality), and after several other potential candidates claimed, 'they would not touch the job with a barge pole.'

Smillie said that had Chikane been afraid, he could have left the country, and used the information while protecting his source. Alternately, 'having turned him in, he should have resigned' after witnessing the response of the Zimbabwean government. 'Disgracefully, he did neither. And equally disgracefully, the Kimberley Process allowed him to muddle on, “approving” diamond exports without authority and acting as though what he had done to a human rights activist was acceptable.'

Chikane, he said, examined only diamonds offered for export by Marange companies, specifically whether they were 'mined, as stated, in Marange', citing his terms of reference as a failure of what the KP was meant to stand for and protect against: ‘It was like checking to see if Tony Soprano was using a crosswalk.’

In mid-September, the KP sent a high profile team to assess Zimbabwe’s diamond industry. Anjin was allegedly one of the main mines scheduled for inspection, part of the agreement negotiated in the DRC, by the KP chairperson, DRC chair, Mathieu Yamba.[1]

As of mid-September, Anjin did not have a license to export diamonds. But the company, which claims to have relocated families to a new settlement, complete with tapped water and paved roads, is confident that it complies with the KP minimum requirements. Anjin, investing some US$310 million in Zimbabwe’s diamond industry, was confident that Chikane would provide KP approval. http://www.diamondintelligence.com/magazine/magazine.aspx?id=9835

In Zimbabwe, for one China, it is certain, the future glitters brightly – for the other ‘China’, however, not so much.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Khadija Sharife is southern Africa correspondent for The Africa Report, a contributing researcher for the Tax Justice Network and
visiting scholar at the UKZN Center for Civil Society.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

NOTES

[1] Zimbabwe has a long history with the DRC: Windhoek, Namibia was the location, in late 1999, for Mugabe and Zanu PF's demands for compensation from the DRC's then-head Kabila, financially backed by Mugabe (in a deal pegged at $53 million dollar negotiated by the highly secretive entity, the Zimbabwean Defense Industries) in a war against Mobutu. In exchange for arms, food and transport, Mugabe would receive resources concessions for minerals including diamonds.

In 1999, Operation Sovereign Legitimacy (OSLEG) was created in Windhoek, as a vehicle to generate and recoup revenue. The main architect for Zanu PF’s commercial activities, including OSLEG, was Emmerson Mnangagwa – Mugabe's right hand man, whose biography lists him as former head of the CIO, the only man 'more feared than Mugabe', and perceived by most as Mugabe's successor.


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