Operation Hakudzokwi – What happened in Chiadzwa?

A report of the atrocities committed by state security agents in Mutare and Chiadzwa diamond fields under ‘Operation Hakudzokwi’ (you will not return) between November 2008 and January 2009.

The Marange diamond fields, previously owned by African Consolidated Resources and subsequently taken over by the government and given to the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), has become a hotbed of armed conflict as government troops battle to control the mining of the precious metal. With the heavy handedness and the ruthlessness with which the government troops crushed the illegal diamond panning, and the continuation of illegal panning activities involving well connected syndicates, many observers are of the opinion that the Chiadzwa diamonds have since become ‘blood diamonds’ whose sale should be considered illegal under the Kimberly processes.

The Chiadzwa diamond rush began in September 2006 when news circulated around Mutare that Chiadzwa was rich in the precious metal. This came one year after the universally condemned Operation Murambatsvina which caused 700 000 families to lose their sources of livelihood or shelter or both. The diamond rush was led largely by the jobless and homeless, majority of whom were direct victims of operation Murambatsvina. At first the government denied that the stones being mined by the illegal panners were indeed diamonds. In 2007, it is alleged the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe began sending its buyers to the diamond fields to buy diamonds from the illegal panners. However, occasionally the government would send in police details that sometimes clashed with the illegal panners, resulting in deaths on both sides. Panning activities continued unabated, drawing panners from the four corners of Zimbabwe as far as Nigeria, Angola, and Mozambique etc. At the height of the illegal panning activities, about 35 000 panners were now doing business in Chiadzwa, either as panners, buyers or vendors [1]. In most cases the police formed syndicates with panners, allowing the illegal panners to dig for the precious stones in return for a share of whatever the panners would have mined.

Operation Hakudzokwi, which intensified during the first week of November 2008, had been going on for 6 weeks but was exclusively carried out by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP). During the police operation, clashes between the police and illegal panners were common but brief, allowing the panning activities to continue after short breaks

Political context

The Operation Hakudzokwi part 2 which commenced around 10 November was officially announced by the Manicaland Governor and Resident Minister, Chris Mushohwe [2]. The operation later spread to residential suburbs in Mutare where armed soldiers were abducting anyone they suspected of having anything to do with Chiadzwa diamond activities. Chris Mushohwe was the losing candidate of Mutare West Constituency in the March 29 general election. Chiadzwa is under Mutare west constituency. During the run up to the March 29 general election Mushohwe, then a candidate contesting the Mutare West constituency on a ZANU PF ticket, encouraged panners to continue with their activities, promising to protect them if he got elected to Parliament. Everything changed when Mushohwe lost the Mutare West constituency to the MDC. Suddenly the government began talking of taking tough action to flush out the illegal panners out of Chiadzwa. Nevertheless, despite talking tough, the government allowed the Police to continue operating in Chiadzwa for the greater part of 2008. The situation changed dramatically when Chris Mushohwe, the losing candidate of Mutare West, was appointed Governor of Manicaland Province sometime in October 2008.

A source said there was a provincial Joint Operations Command (JOC) meeting that was chaired by Governor Chris Mushohwe. At the meeting he expressed bitterness at low voter turn out from Chiadzwa in the March 29 general election despite the thousands of people living and conducting illegal trade in diamonds in Chiadzwa. He also complained that the local people in Chiadzwa were now enjoying the benefits of illegal diamond panning to the extent that they no longer care to vote for his ZANU PF party. He addressed a press conference a few days before the start of the November operation where he vowed to crush the illegal diamond panning activities. His sentiments were also echoed by the Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono who said the government was losing millions of dollars to illegal panners every month and the soldiers had come to ‘to try to drive the illegal diggers out’.

Home Affairs versus Defense Ministries

Operation Hakudzokwi started about 9 weeks after the signing of the Global Political Agreement between ZANU PF and the two MDC formations. Shortly after the signing of the political agreement, it emerged that ZANU PF had allocated itself the Ministry of Defense whilst the MDC was still demanding the Home Affairs Ministry. The source revealed that it became apparent that the majority of the police officers were happy to fall under the MDC. There was growing suspicion within the top echelons of power that the police force was no longer loyal to the ZANU PF government and was now reluctant to carry out its duties. Suddenly the police were accused of cooperating with the illegal panners to undermine the government. A Joint Operations Command was also held in Harare which is reported to have left out Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri. At that JOC meeting the army was tasked to take over from the police in Chiadzwa.

Below is an account from a police officer on duty in Chiadzwa when the army arrived:

I was stationed in Chiadzwa when the soldiers arrived. At first two helicopters flew around the diamond fields and we just thought it was an ordinary military exercise. When the two helicopters landed, several army buses and trucks arrived. The soldiers announced that they had come to take over operations in Chiadzwa. They informed the leaders of Police that they had come under a directive issued by President Mugabe. There were a few skirmishes between the soldiers and the police as the former tried to assert their authority in the diamond fields. Some police officers were beaten by the soldiers. At first the Police authorities fought back, ordering police officers to return to Chiadzwa and continue with their operations. Police chiefs in Manicaland communicated with Commissioner General Chihuri about the military interference in their work and Chihuri expressed ignorance about any presidential directive replacing police with the army in Chiadzwa diamond fields. The Police finally withdrew, temporarily. Meanwhile the number of soldiers in Chiadzwa kept growing. For about three weeks the army was left alone in Chiadzwa until such a time when a decision was reached at the highest level that it was in the best interest of national security that the police and the army harmonize relations. Then a hybrid force of about 1500 soldiers, Police and CIO was put together to patrol the Chiadzwa area. But the damage had already been done. During the military operation, two helicopters flew around the diamond fields, spraying bullets allover from the sky, and in the process killing scores of illegal panners. Some were buried in mass graves using bull dozers. [3]

The military operation was jointly carried out by three battalions, namely the Mechanized Brigade which uses the most sophisticated weapons in the country, Commando and the notorious Kwekwe based 5th Brigade which carried out the Gukurahundi atrocities in the 1980s. Mutare based 3 Brigade only patrolled the highway leading to Chiadzwa. Meanwhile during the three weeks in which the army was in sole control of Chiadzwa, thousands of gross human rights abuses occurred in the entire region from Chiadzwa to Mutare. One military source described what he saw in Chiadzwa as a ‘good African movie’. Whilst some soldiers sprayed bullets from the helicopters others were leading the ground offensive, shooting to kill real and suspected diamond panners. The soldiers said they managed to protect precious minerals in the DRC and they can’t fail to protect diamonds at home.

Suspects were rounded up and taken to Chiadzwa where they were tortured and forced to fill the open pits that were dug at the height of the uncontrolled mining activities. Families in and around Chiadzwa have not been spared either, with several reporting that they have been beaten on false accusations of harboring illegal diamond miners. Scores of suspected diamond buyers and illegal panners were abducted by military personnel without any warrants of arrest. Many have fled the country leaving their impounded vehicles in police custody. To date, no one knows the whereabouts of these impounded vehicles. The governor has said that the government has taken a firm position to clean-up the illicit diamond trade in Chiadzwa. However, this move has caused a drastic rise to human rights abuses. Innocent people are being tortured, robbed and sometimes killed by the uniformed forces.

Extra-Judicial killings

Scores of panners have been shot dead resulting in the Manica Post (21 – 27 November) reporting that unidentified bodies of panners are piling up at Mutare Provincial Hospital Mortuary. The Newspaper applauded the police and military for bringing to an end the illegal diamond mining in Chiadzwa. The paper also highlighted that some of the panners were short by soldiers as they attempted to resist eviction from the diamond fields. Nathaniel Manheru, widely believed to be President Mugabe’s spokeman, George Charamba, who writes a Saturday column in the government controlled Herald Newspaper, lifted the lead on the government atrocities in Chiadzwa In November 2008. Writing on the 24th of November, two weeks after the operation had began, he said ‘The Untouchables of Chiadzwa are either slaving, wounded or dead. Those accused of damaging it may not use shovels, hoes or some such implements. They shall use their fingers, and accomplish the job in record time, these gwejas and gwejesses.

The CRD visited Mutare Provincial Hospital to get first hand information of the number of bodies received from Chiadzwa by the hospital.

Brought in Dead (BID)

Records at the hospital confirmed that as of the 5th of November, over 150 bodies had been received by the hospital mortuary from Chiadzwa. These were labeled BID Marange, meaning brought in dead from Marange. Hospital staff confirmed that majority of the bodies had gunshot wounds. However, it was also learnt that some of the panners, very few in number, died due to diseases and fighting among the panners themselves. As of the 3rd of December 2008, 78 bodies from Chiadzwa diamond fields were still awaiting collection from the mortuary. Sources at the Provincial Hospital said they stopped receiving bodies from Chiadzwa on the 5th of November because their mortuary could not accommodate the daily influx of bodies from the troubled Chiadzwa diamond fields. Some bodies were taken to Old Mutare Mission hospital mortuary whilst others were kept at Sakubva District Hospital and private funeral parlors in Mutare, awaiting collection by relatives or paupers burial if relatives do not turn up.

Unknown

Some of the bodies received from Chiadzwa were labeled UNKNOWN. Hospital staff confirmed that several bodies recorded as UNKNOWN during the month of November had gunshot wounds reminiscent to those labeled BID. Others had fatal wounds inflicted by police dogs. These were killed and left on the scene by the police and army. Later the bodies were picked up and brought into the hospital mortuary without any detail of how the deaths occurred. Hospital staff was ordered to record them as ‘unknown’. The cause of deaths was not mentioned in the hospital records.

Deaths in Hospitals

More than thirty panners died at Mutare Provincial Hospital from wounds inflicted on them by the soldiers, police and police dogs. These deaths had no reference to Chiadzwa; the dead were only recorded as having died in hospital.

Deaths due to injuries sustained

During the investigations it came to our attention that scores of panners died at their rural homes due to injuries sustained at the hands of soldiers and police. These are people who were severely beaten; some mauled by police dogs and others survived gunshots and were ferried to their homes and died later on due to injuries sustained. It was difficult to trace victims of police and military brutality to their rural homes as some of them came as far afield as Shurugwi, Plumtree, Mt Darwin and other remote parts of Zimbabwe. Some of the wounded later died in hospitals due to injuries sustained but no docket was opened against those responsible for their deaths.

Torture
The murder of Maxwell Mabota

By early January illegal mining activities had been drastically reduced to syndicates operating in cahoots with the police and the army. During this period the soldiers started working with ordinary people and the CIO to trace some of the people who allegedly benefitted from the illegal panning of diamonds. One such man they were interested in was Maxwell Mabota, a flourishing young businessman who is alleged to have been a buyer of the precious metal. Mr Mabota operated a fleet of buses which plied several routes in and around Mutare. According to family sources Mabota received a phone call from a usually reliable business partner who had been hired by soldiers to trick him into going to the diamond fields. Having been guaranteed of full protection by his partner Mabota drove to Chiadzwa where he was trapped and arrested upon arrival. The soldiers then started beating him all over his body, leaving him in a critical condition.

Despite having badly wounded him, the soldiers handed him over to the police with an instruction to put him in the cells. The Police took him to a private hospital where he was admitted under police guard. When the police realized that his health was deteriorating fast they withdrew their presence from the hospital, thereby allowing the family to airlift Mr. Mabota to South Africa on the 8th of January 2009 where he died on arrival. South African authorities demanded that a police report be made and a docket was opened at Kempton Park Police station, case number 346/01/2009 [4]. Prior to his departure for South Africa no docket had been opened for Mr Mabota, just like hundreds of similar cases involving police and military brutality. His death came in the wake of a renewed operation by the Police and army that began during the first week of January 2009.

The Mabota family delayed coming to Zimbabwe with Maxwell’s body for about a week after receiving threats from the CIO who wanted to seize all implicating evidence relating to the murder case at Harare International Airport. Reliable family sources informed the CRD that the Mabota family had been advised that the CIO had been instructed to harass the family upon arrival from South Africa and seize the postmortem report to conceal evidence of State’s role in the murder of Mabota.

The story of Jeffery Pondai (30)

He was sleeping at a certain homestead in Marange. The soldiers raided us after a tip off from my former girl friend. TI don’t know where they got the other 8. They took us to Chakohwa base station. The following day they drove us to Chiadzwa. They started framing stories againts us, alleging that there were some illegal panners who had beaten up soldiers. I was suffering from Malaria when they abducted me. They beat me with logs and iron bars left behind by illegal panners. The soldiers who beat us were from 4.2 Brigade based in Masvingo. They wore white belts. The most cruel in that group was one by the name Tapomwa. They took turns to bet us. One would say ‘I am going to beat you five strokes each’, another would say 10, still another would say 15 and so on. They beat us for the whole night without restraint. At first they said they needed to deflate our tyres so that we would not run away. Immediatley they started beating us under our feet with logs and iron bars. Each one of us was beaten 40 strokes under the feet. They serached us and stole USD1200 from me

In the morning I had severe convulsions due to the effect of malaria and the beatings. They thought I was dying and I realized they didn’t want anyone to die at the torture base. They then released me but not before I went through what they called “Pass Out”. We were made to crawl in front of the soldiers who were beating us as they stood in a line. Finally they beat me twenty strokes and told me to go. I was released on Tuesday 3 March but only managed to reach Chakohwa on Friday 6 March. I was walking short distances and slept in the bush for two days. No family could accommodate me fearing that I could die in their hands. On the third day I managed to be accepted into the homestead of a good Samaritan who accommodated me and took good care of me. After resting for a while they took me to a police base station fro where I was carried to Mutambara Mission Hospital. Now I am feeling better but I cant be released from hospital because they want me to pay 1350 Rands. I am stranded because all my money was stollen by the soldiers.

In a related incident, Takunda Neshumba of Buhera (25) died after being beaten by a Police officer in Chiadzwa on Wednesday 25 March. He was admitted at Mutambara Mission Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries on the 30th of March.

Mr Judah Neshumba, the father of Takunda reporting the death of his son at Cashel Valley Police Station on Tuesday 31 March.

Mass grave and pauper’s burial

On Friday 19 December 2008 a private contractor was hired by Mutare Provincial Hospital to conduct a pauper’s burial for 78 bodies received from Chiadzwa. USD7000 was raised from the Governor’s, office, Civil Protection Unit, donors and well wishers who were concerned with the deteriorating standards at the hospital mortuary. The bodies were buried in a mass grave at Dangamvura cemetery [5].

Most prominent killers

Although brutality by the government security forces intensified during the month of June, violence against the illegal panners had been going on throughout 2008. By 5 November 2008 close to 200 panners had been killed in the filled. The pre-November killings were led by Officer Commanding Mutare Rural, O. C. Govo. He is reported to have shot and killed several panners using his A K Assault rifle. Govo personally gave orders to his subordinates to shoot to kill panners, assuring them that no one shall be prosecuted. Below is an account by a soldier stationed at 3 Brigade who witnessed Govo committing some of his heinous crimes in Chiadzwa:

A police officer shot and killed a young boy suspected of panning diamonds. He ripped his head open with an avalanche of bullets. When he had killed the boy, the officer was condemned by some of his colleagues. He became afraid. He just sat quietly for the greater part of the day, not knowing what was going to happen when his superiors arrive later in the day. No one touched the body of the young man. Later in the day Govo arrived and when he saw the corpse he asked, ‘who has killed this animal?’ The officer who had committed the crime stood up and claimed responsibility. Govo asked why he had killed only one. He said lets go to the panners hideout and I will demonstrate what I want all of you to do. When the panners saw the officers they started running away. Govo pulled the trigger and killed two on the spot whilst several escaped with gunshot wounds. Govo said that was a demonstration of how to handle illegal diamond panners.[6]

Govo is a War Veteran – turned – Police Officer who also led a violent campaign to stop illegal gold panning in Kwekwe and Kadoma. He is reported to have brutally killed scores of illegal gold panners in the Midlands. His war background has made him immune to prosecution. When the public outcry grew concerning Govo’s slaughter of diamond panners he was transferred to an obscure location in Lupane, Matebeleland.

At the height of the military operation in November, General Constantine Chiwenga and Air Marshall Perence Shiri spent days camped at Holiday Inn in Mutare monitoring the violent campaign. Two helicopters ferried them to the diamonds field daily where the soldiers ruthlessly massacred real and suspected panners. Perence Shiri is famous for leading the Fifth brigade that left around 20 000 people dead in Matebeleland and Midlands provinces in the 1980s. He also led a bloody campaign of torture, beatings and killings during the run up to the one man presidential election rerun on June 27 2008. Shiri and Chiwenga are reported to have come to Mutare to protect the military from prosecution. Whilst the police officers operating in Chiadzwa had name tags, the soldiers had no name tags and no docket was opened against a soldier.

Among the soldiers one of the prominent killers was Colonel Emmanuel Karande of the 5th Brigade. He also participated in the Gukurahundi atrocities and is reportedly a close confidante of Air Marshal Perence Shiri. Karande is said to have advised his relatives around Mutare not to go to the diamond fields in November, shortly before the operation began [7]. He is personally responsible for the deaths of scores of panners during the month of November. A close relative described him as very cruel and one who has a quest for killing.

From the Police ranks, one of the most notorious killers in Chiadzwa was Officer Commanding Nyanga, Disctrict, Chief Supt Chani. He is a War Veteran with a long history of killing civilians. He was described by a Police Officer as a very wicked man who needlessly shot to kill the panners even in cases where there was no resistance or threat to his security[8].

Officer Commanding Chipinge District, Supt Jaboon was also reported by police sources to have shot and killed several illegal panners in Chiadzwa. The same was said of Constable Muza who is based at Chikurubi Support Unit.

The other police officers said to have been leading in the terror campaign are Supt Chipanda from the Support Unit and Senior Assistant Commissioner Matutu

Criminal Activities by the Police and Army

The net of the operation widened to include those suspected to be involved in illegal foreign currency deals. Soldiers and police were openly stealing forex and other valuables from residents after accusing them of dealing in forex. The uniformed forces appeared to think that it is a criminal offense for an ordinary Zimbabwean to carry forex. At the height of the operation residents were afraid to carry foreign currency in the city centre as anyone could be abducted and taken to Chiadzwa, in addition to exposing oneself to robbery by state security agents. The confiscation of forex by the uniformed forces is puzzling given that the Zimbabwean laws do not prohibit nationals to possess foreign currency. In fact, several shops have been licensed to transact in foreign currency. It is therefore, a criminal offence for the police and soldiers to rob people of their foreign currency under the pretext of fighting the illegal diamond mining in Chiadzwa.

The CRD has done a number of interviews with those abducted from Mutare who have described the events which took place. The police and army abducted more than six hundred people from the streets and some from the shops licensed to sell in forex in the city centre. The soldiers and police were armed with guns and baton sticks. Some stated that they were just told to sit down and had shoelaces tied to their feet so that they could not escape. They were then forced to get onto buses without being told where they were going. It was only when they had reached Sakubva that they were told that they were going to Chiadzwa. On arrival, these people had their personal belongings taken away from them including cell phones and foreign currency. These were left in the custody of the soldiers.

On Monday 24th of November, several pedestrians and motorists alike were rounded up in the CBD and forced onto a Zupco bus without a slightest notion of what was going on. From the city these innocent citizens were ferried to the diamond mines in Chiadzwa whereupon they were detained and received thorough beatings and forced to sing till midnight. The captives are then forced to roll on the ground whilst the soldiers and other plain clothes police beat them. At around 4 AM they were forced to fill in the open pits using bare hands. A single group would spend a minimum of two days in Chiadzwa and nine people shared a single plate of Sadza with each getting a single bite[9]. It is a horrendous ordeal that has no place in modern society.

Despite the gross human rights violations by the state security agents and the outcry by ordinary citizens and human rights organizations, Nathaniel Manheru continued to glorify the operation, and even praised the torture of victims by state security agents. He wrote, ‘It is a season of tears as man become beast to get beastly men and women to repair the heinous damage they have wrought on innocence. It is painful payback time. The deep gullies are being refilled with bare hands. Fingers are sore and finishing, well before a quarter of the job is done. Chiadzwa, once a place for dashing fortune-seekers, has become Chiadzwa the place of unrelieved pain.’

The Manicaland Legal Resources Foundation reported that innocent people were being abducted, tortured and taken to Chiadzwa in Marange to fill the gullies left by illegal panners, adding that ‘there are atrocities and torture going on in Chiadzwa at the moment, some people have died while others are maimed for life

All the abductees who were interviewed talked about the cruelty of the soldiers who appeared drunk or to have been under the influence of toxic drugs. They were made to run a hundred metres in between the soldiers whilst being beaten using tree branches which were about one to two metres long. They were made to crawl and were ordered to smear ashes and soil on their faces and clothes. The women had their hair cut using broken glasses. However, most of these women were beaten and returned to Mutare the same night. There are unconfirmed reports of women being raped by soldiers. It is difficult for women to openly confess having been raped for fear of losing their dignity

As for the men, they stayed overnight taking orders from the soldiers. They sustained serious injuries; a number of them had head injuries, arms and legs broken and were unable to walk due to the severe beatings, others even fainted. The following day, men were subjected to further atrocious treatment. They were made to fill in the open pits which were about two metres deep with their bare hands. The majority of the people who were abducted complained that they were not given their foreign currency back.

When the abducted people were asked to comment about this operation “hakudzokwi”, they said it reminded them of Gukurahundi and Operation Murambatsvina when people’s rights were trodden upon by the state; they were just taken from the street and falsely accused of being forex and illegal diamond dealers and severely punished without a fair hearing. The people also said that the operation must be stopped because a lot of people were traumatized to the extent that they no longer want to get into town or even to see a uniformed officer in front of them. Some of the victims who had broken legs and arms cannot afford to get medication since most hospitals and clinics have no drugs and are short of staff. Most of the victims said that this operation is evil and atrocious and must be stopped. One of the people the CRD interviewed said that they were told that the soldiers were given full authority to kill those who did not comply with them. They were told that they must send the message to people in Mutare that this operation is not going to stop until they have dealt with all illegal diamond dealers.

Flawed Court Procedures

Many human rights abuses took place in the Chiadzwa operations, from excess use of force with no relation to the extent of resistance from the suspects to inhuman treatment and blatant disregard for due legal process in handling the cases at courts. Human rights lawyers who handled the cases that came prior to the army operation report that the levels and extent of police brutality was just appalling. Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) Mutare office reports that the arrests were done indiscriminately. Children and women vending in the area, locals and suspected illegal panners were all rounded up. Upon being rounded up the police would administer thorough beatings and set vicious police dogs on the suspects. Many sustained serious injuries from the beatings and dog bites. Human rights lawyers noted that in every one hundred of the accused at least twenty five had severe wounds. The casualties had no access to treatment while in police custody. According to Legal Resource Foundation a substantial number of the accused, especially women, had open wounds with puss oozing out. Some victims could hardly walk and had to be carried by fellow accused. Even with such glaring evidence the magistrates did not order an inquiry into the circumstances in which these people got injured or grant an order instructing the state to provide medical treatment for them. The prison health service had no medication and the accused could not access other sources of health care.

At the height of the operation (November – December 2008) every police holding cell in Mutare was full beyond its carrying capacity. Inhuman conditions awaited these people at the remand Prison. It is reported that Mutare remand prison, with a carrying capacity of around three hundred inmates, had to house over a thousand people from Chiadzwa. Many had to sleep in the open courts within the prison yard. The prison did not have capacity to feed the inmates and these people went for days without anything to eat. Some lawyers ended up giving the accused the little they had in terms of food.

The scenario in the courts was not better either. The officials from the Attorney General’s office’s did not follow correct court procedures. Cases were just bundled together, for instance forty people would have their cases on one docket. Cases were heard enmasse and the accused persons answered in a chorus form[10]. The accused persons went through what the court officials referred to as mass trials. There was blanket refusal of bail without taking each case on its merit. The accused could not be tried within a reasonable time simply because the justice system was and still is seriously congested. Accused persons from Chiadzwa were evidently denied the right to fair trail. According to the report by Manicaland Lawyers association, the total number of people brought to the courts from Chiadzwa within a space of two weeks was in excess of one thousand one hundred (1100).

Corruption was rampant as the court officials would willfully derail processes and ask for bribes so as to fast track cases. At times some people would be told that their names are not appearing in the files. This would mean one faced a risk of being forgotten and rot in remand. To redress this anomaly the friends or relatives resorted to bribing the officials.

The Governance Factor

The CRD discovered that civil servants and other employees from the private sector deserted their workplaces due to worthless salaries and horrible working conditions to go to Chiadzwa where they either operated as diamond diggers, buyers or traders in various items ranging from food to clothing. Majority of professionals found in Chiadzwa were police officers, soldiers and teachers who said it was far much better to operate in Chiadzwa than to spend their precious time serving the government in order to get peanuts. Hundreds of college students whose colleges spent the second half of 2008 closed due to a general strike by the teaching staff also flocked to Chiadzwa to become both diggers and buyers of diamonds. The CRD also interviewed a serving soldier based at 3 Brigade in Mutare who was an illegal diamond panner in Chiadzwa. He said his salary was so paltry it could not feed his family for a single day. At present he operates a syndicate in Chiadzwa. Some of the panners said they lost their homes and sources of livelihood during Operation Murambatsvina and Chiadzwa had breathed life into their families.

Tendai is a qualified primary school teacher who was teaching deep in the heart of Mutasa District when the diamond rush began in 2006. He could not even afford bus fare to go to Mutare to collect his meager salary. A friend told him about the Chiadzwa Diamond Fields and offered to go with him. On his first visit Tendai unearthed a clear diamond worth USD 3500 and he immediately abandoned his teaching job to settle in Chiadzwa. He says it’s a matter of survival, arguing that denying him the right to work in the diamonds fields is just the same with condemning his family to die of hunger.

The Chiadzwa diamond rush should be understood in the broader context of the governance problems afflicting Zimbabwe. It is false to conclude that wherever there are diamonds there is bound to be conflict. The cases of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia proves beyond any shadow of doubt that where there is good governance and where citizens benefit directly or indirectly from the lawful mining of the precious metal, there is peace and development. In Zimbabwe, due to the collapse of governance structures and unprecedented levels of human suffering, it is difficult, if not impossible, to bring normalcy to the Chiadzwa Diamond Fields. Only when there are strong governance structures and when workers are paid reasonable wages that can carry them to the next pay day, Chiadzwa shall remain a hotspot.

Blood Diamonds

It is our observation that Operation Hakudzikwi was launched not for the good of the country but to pave way for some senior ZANU PF officials who are interested in taking over the mining operations in Marange. These top officials may also be working in collaboration with Hi Tech Chinese and Russian companies to whom they will grant mining contracts and receive massive kickbacks. The Chinese are the biggest sponsors of weapons of terror to the Zimbabwe government. Operation Hakudzokwi should be understood in the context of the on going 100% empowerment drive by ZANU PF in which they are targeting the mining sector.

Several big names have been named as having been behind Operation Hakudzokwi. Some government sources say the operation was launched ruthlessly because some senior ZANU PF officials wanted to grab the mine in the same manner they used violence to acquire farms. Reliable sources say First Lady Grace Mugabe and Vice president Joyce Mujuru were claiming ownership of the diamond fields. They had the backing of Gideon Gono who unveiled a scheme in 2008 to support ZANU PF women who wish to venture into mining. Other senior ZANU PF and military chiefs are already benefiting from the illicit trade in diamonds. On 1 Mach 2007 the ZANU PF spokesman for Harare province and Principal Director in the Ministry without portfolio, William Nhara, was arrested at Harare International Airport after unsuccessfully trying to smuggle 1874 pieces of diamonds out of the country. He was working in cahoots with a Lebanese woman Carole Georges El Martin and a fellow Zimbabwean Tonderai Masimba Guhu. The son of the CEO of Zimbabwe Defense Industries Rtd Col Tshinga Dube, Mthulisi was also arrested at his father’s house the same day Nhara was arrested. Police also arrested an Air force of Zimbabwe officer Nyasha Takunda Mudenge, and recovered 764 pieces of diamonds fro him.

Police and Military Syndicates in Chiadzwa (Hakudzokwi part 2)

Despite the heavy presence of police and army, illegal diamond mining continues unabated in Chiadzwa. This is an account of one illegal miner:

When the Military operation began early November it became difficult to get into the fields. Upon their arrival in Mid-November, the soldiers shot and killed several panners. This brought panning to a standstill. However, a few days later, the soldiers started inviting the gwejas (illegal diamond miners) to continue with their panning activities. Nowadays, you just need to be escorted by a soldier and you share the proceeds with him. But at times you work the whole day and in the end another group of soldiers arrive and rob you of everything.[11]

Throughout December the Police and Military syndicates were roaming around villages scouting for people whom they would escort to the diamond fields and share the diamonds. These syndicates range from 12 years olds to 60 year olds. The villagers say at times another group of soldiers will arrive and fire at them, resulting in their escort running away or they are captured together, loosing everything to the group.

During the first week of March 38 soldiers and 19 Cops were arrested for operating syndicates in Chiadzwa [12]. Of the 57 officers 20 were discharged from the force whilst the other 37 were awaiting their cases to be finalized. They are accused of rounding up villagers under the guise of refilling open pits when in actual fact they want to use them as cheap labor to mine diamonds.

[1]: Chiadzwa blitz flushes out 35 000, The Herald, 11 December 2008

[2]: CRD interview with a government official based at the Governor’s office, Mutare, 1 December 2008

[3]: CRD interview with a police officer stationed at Chiadzwa when the army arrived, 13 December 2008

[4]: CRD Interview with a member of the Mabota family

[5]: CRD interview with a hospital staff member who witnessed the mass burial, 23 December 2008

[6]: CRD interview with a soldier based at 3 Brigade who witnessed the killings, 16 December 2008

[7]: CRD Interview with a relative of Perence Shiri, 20 December 2008

[8]: CRD interview with a Police Officer who was based in Chiadzwa during the month of November, 16 December 2008

[9]: CRD interview with an abductee, 2 December 2008

[10]: CRD Interview with officials from the Mutare Legal Resources Foundation

[11]: CRD interview with an illegal panner, 29 November 2008

[12]: Soldiers, Cops arrested at Chiadzwa, The Zimbabwe Times, March 11, 2009,

Posted in Campaigns to Dismantle Corporate Power
2 comments on “Operation Hakudzokwi – What happened in Chiadzwa?
  1. fadzie says:

    interesting report, I am doing my PhD on the militarisation of forest conservation in Zimbabwe, I found your report reach with background on militarisation from the mining sector and really quite useful for my historical chapter on the development of militarisation in Zimbabwe…
    But its also quite sad to learn that such atrocities and human right violations actually do occur in the manner in which they do.

  2. fadzie says:

    meant to say rich not Reach…..

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