Earlier this month it was announced that Mugabe’s Kimberley Process cronies have decided to give him until June to withdraw the soldiers in the Marange diamond fields. The army runs smuggling operations and use forced labour in mines whose profits benefit Zanu-PF.
Human Rights Watch exposed the horrors of Marange in June. A task team from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme followed soon after and confirmed HRW’s findings. They recommended Zimbabwe be suspended from trading in diamonds.
But the horrors have continued. “As recently as late October 2009, [HRW] uncovered rampant abuses by the military in Marange including forced labour, child labour, killings, beatings, smuggling, and corruption,” says the rights body.
There is a clear case for Zimbabwe to be suspended. The gems from Marange are blood diamonds, extracted through the persecution and oppression of those living in the area. But no: Zimbabwe gets away with it. By letting them off the hook, “this diamond monitoring body has utterly lost credibility,” says Georgette Gagnon, HRW’s Africa director. She is absolutely right.
Having failed to do anything about the rights abuses and military occupation of Marange, over the past few months since abuses have been exposed, it is highly unlikely that Mugabe will implement the Kimberley Process’s recommendations by the agreed deadline. And with friends like South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, DRC and Russia — why should he? Doubtless they’ll rush to his defence in June next year.
So the army will continue its plunder. The diamonds will continue to be smuggled. The people — women, children included — will continue to be oppressed and exploited. And the revenues will continue to fund senior Zanu-PF apparatchiks’ lavish lifestyles. All the while, the country continues its implosion: blackouts roll across the country; people starve; hospitals have no medicine; sewage trickles in the street.
Perhaps we should all boycott purchasing diamonds (of course in these dark times it’s not like there are vast hordes rushing to the jewellery shop anyway). But let’s boycott nonetheless. If there was a significant drop in sales, perhaps the diamond-producing countries that allowed Zimbabwe’s shame to continue, will develop scruples. It’s worth a try.
After all, there’s very little one can do, it seems, except jump up and down — and weep, and pray that sanity may prevail in Zimbabwe. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s re-engagement with Mugabe in the sham “unity” government is a great pity. It means his threats are empty. Mugabe can continue regardless. Do you really think Mugabe’s going to fall in line within thirty days like Tsvangirai’s demanded he do? And what then — another deadline?
The unity government has failed to stop Zanu-PF’s reign of terror: human rights continue to be violated with brutal impunity. And the country continues to fall apart. Tsvangirai is an appeaser. His dalliance with Zanu-PF makes me curious: is he stupid, naïve, or has he been bought by Mugabe’s machine? He reminds me of Neville Chamberlain, and the British prime minister’s desperate attempts to secure “peace in our time” in the months before World War II. Well, as that tragic history showed us, appeasement only led to immense suffering, cataclysmic violence and upheaval.
If Morgan Tsvangirai really cares about his country and the members of his party that continue being persecuted, he must act decisively and abandon the marriage he should never have agreed to. Mugabe needs his foe — and bedfellow — to maintain his legitimacy. If the latter walks away, the promise of aid, investment and all the other lifelines that would prop up the Zanu-PF regime will be pulled away.
I admit, it’s not easy for old Morgan. His job is difficult. And lonely. Shamefully, the SADC (which should stand for Southern African Dictators’ Club thanks to its tireless support for Mugabe’s tyranny) is not interested in true democracy taking root in Zimbabwe. Rather, the regional body craves a continuation of the postcolonial aristocracy in which despotic psychopaths can pillage and persecute freely because they are somehow entitled to. SADC’s logic appears to be that such ghastly behaviour is reward for having liberated their countries from the Europeans.
But the threat of regional alienation is no excuse for Tsvangirai to be co-opted by SADC. It is no excuse for him to become the useful idiot acting out SADC’s wilful contempt for the democratic will of the Zimbabwean people. Zimbabwe has suffered long enough. It is time Tsvangirai stops talking and starts acting.