Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Marange Diamond Revenues Used to Buy French Planes

The Africa Report 

Cash strapped Air Zimbabwe buys Airbus planes
Monday, 22 August 2011 16:16


Air Zimbabwe has bought two new A340-200 Airbus passenger planes from France in a deal bankrolled by one of the mining firms licensed to mine at the controversial Marange diamond fields.

Map of Zimbabwe
Map of Zimbabwe

Mbada Diamonds, which has a joint venture with the state owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), financed the deal. It is expected to cost US$500 million.

The company's involvement, although a welcome relief for Air Zimbabwe, which was struggling to replace its ageing aircraft, is likely to fuel speculation that President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF is running a parallel structure since the money was not channeled through treasury.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti says diamond revenue from the Marange fields has not been accounted for and suspects Zanu PF appointees at ZMDC are abusing the money.

Last month ZMDC also provided money to increase salaries of civil servants without Biti’s knowledge.

Aviation sources said Eads, the French aircraft manufacturer was the supplier of the planes.

AirZimbabwe chairperson Jonathan Kadzura was reluctant to divulge details of the deal saying he would do so later this week.

“Mbada Diamonds are the financial muscle behind the planes deal as Air Zimbabwe is broke.

“However, the diamond company’s interest in the whole arrangement is still not clear” said an aviation source.

Air Zimbabwe which has an obsolete fleet of three Boeing 737-200 planes has not flown commercial flights since July 29 when the airline’s 49 pilots walked out over outstanding salaries and allowances.

Pilots earn between US$1200 and US$2 500 a month.

The troubled state-owned airline’s bosses say they need US$7 million to settle the dispute, but the government says it is too broke to help.

The strike, the second work stoppage this year, has disrupted the travel plans of thousands of people.

To prepare to take delivery of the new planes, the Air Zimbabwe's staff is undergoing training.

A team of pilots and air stewards was last week dispatched to Madrid, Spain for a month long intensive training on the new aircraft.

In July a team of pilots and stewards was dispatched to Toulouse, France, for training on the new aircraft.

The new aircraft will service Air Zimbabwe’s long-haul routes – mainly to China and the United Kingdom.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Zim food security ‘pressing issue’

Thursday, 11 August 2011 19:32 Wongai Zhangazha

THE humanitarian situation in the country still remains fragile, with food security, health, water and sanitation a serious cause for concern. Millions of people are said to be drinking from unprotected water sources and living under unhygienic conditions. Due to the immediate humanitarian needs, aid agencies through the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Unocha), last week appealed for US$488 million, an increase of US$73 million from the original requirements of US$415 million.

Key priorities to be addressed by the revised 2011 Consolidated Appeal Process include improving levels of food security, which have been described as a “pressing issue,” nutrition, water and sanitation and addressing the needs of asylum seekers as well as other vulnerable groups. About nine million people, more than half of Zimbabwe’s estimated 12,3 million people (according to the Central Statistical Office’s population projections 2010), are set to benefit this year from water, sanitation and hygiene services, while 8,2 million people will benefit from the health budget and another 6,2 million people from the money budgeted for agriculture.

About 4,95 million women and children are in need of immediate nutritional facilities while 3,2 million pupils, 600 000 teachers and other groups are targeted to benefit in the education sector. As of June 30 2011, four million people have benefited from safe water, hygiene and sanitation while more than three million out of the targeted seven million people are still in need of safe water and sanitation services.
However, half of the targeted people have benefited as of mid this year.

According to the report as of June, 1 750 450 students and 49 890 teachers have been assisted. This is far below the target of more than three million students and 100 000 teachers and school administrators.
In addition, less than half of the five million targeted people to benefit from primary health care facilities have been reached while food security remained an urgent issue after a ‘protracted’ dry spell affected six out of 10 provinces this year. Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Regional Integration and International Cooperation Tedious Chifamba said an internal exercise by the World Food Programme revealed that following extensive crop failure and lack of other food or livelihood, some districts required immediate food assistance for nine months instead of the usual four months. Chifamba said: “Usually vulnerable group feeding is offered for four months (January to April) during the hunger period.  “WFP estimates that it will soon be responding to the needs of approximately 1,4 million people and requires US$83 million to meet these needs. We understand, however, that USAid has already contributed US$18,5 million to meet some of the food needs.”

Due to the dry spell in the six provinces that recorded minimal harvest, vulnerability, especially among people living with HIV/Aids, child headed families, women and the unemployed, had increased. Although there has been stable food availability and marginal improvement in household incomes, poverty, as defined by generally low income, high underemployment and unemployment levels, has remained a major challenge to household food security in both urban and rural areas.

According to Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet), Zimbabwe’s food security outlook for July through to December 2011 released last week, Binga, Kariba, Mudzi, Umzingwane and Zvishavane districts need to be monitored closely as they have annual localised food deficits and their current production was heavily compromised by the dry spells. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC)
rural livelihoods assessment estimated the prevalence of food insecure rural households to be six percent in July 2010. This number was projected to increase to 11% between October and December 2010 and further to 15% during the peak hunger season.“Rates for chronic and acute childhood malnutrition still stand at 35% and 2,4% respectively,” read the review. “One third of rural Zimbabweans still drink from unprotected water sources. While the scale of cholera has significantly reduced compared to past years, localised outbreaks continue due to the poor state of the health and water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.” UN humanitarian co-coordinator for Zimbabwe Alain Noudehou said though there has been improvement in the social economic context in the country and stability in the humanitarian situation, there are still some weak areas where humanitarian assistance was still needed. He said an announcement by the South African government that it would start deportations of Zimbabweans by August 1 is expected to result in an influx of people, increasing the need for assistance.“I would like to refer to needs related to food insecurity, response to disease outbreaks like cholera epidemics,” said Noudehou. “There could also be the need to support Zimbabweans who may be repatriated from South Africa in the coming months.”

The review also read: “Gains made in the education sector, especially under the Basic Education Assistance Module, are at risk unless pledged funds are disbursed quickly.” Minister of Finance Tendai Biti in his mid-year fiscal policy statement said according to the second round crop assessment survey, about 164 000 households were confirmed to be in need of food assistance.This has prompted his ministry to put in place a framework which requires US$32,4 million to facilitate distribution of food.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

BBC: Zimbabwe torture camp discovered

Victims speak of massacre in Zimbabwe diamond fields

A BBC investigation has found that torture camps are being operated by Zimbabwe's security forces near the Marange diamond fields.
Victims have told the BBC's Hilary Andersson that prisoners are routinely subjected to rape and severe beatings and that some are mauled by dogs.
This comes as the EU is pushing for a partial end to a sales ban on Marange diamonds. The names of people in this report have been changed to protect their identities.
Hilary Andersson reports.

 See short videos of interviews

Export of Zimbabwean diamonds threatens ethical jewellery trade

Rosie Spinks
08 August, 2011

With the Kimberley Process in a state of paralysis over Zimbabwean diamonds, consumers can no longer be sure they’re buying ethical jewels. Ahead of a BBC Panorama investigation into the issue, Rosie Spinks reports

The dusty veld on Zimbabwe’s eastern border with Mozambique is home to the Marange diamond fields; an area with rich alluvial deposits that have an estimated worth of up to US $800 billion and could be viable for the next 80 years.

However the extraction of diamonds from these fields – and their subsequent release into the global market - has put the ethical diamond trade in jeopardy due to allegations of serious human rights abuses connected to the region's diamond industry.

‘At this point, the consumer has no idea what they’re getting at jewellery stores,’ says Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness, a UK-based NGO. ‘And retailers have no way of telling consumers if a diamond has been produced without human rights abuses.’

In 2002, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was created to prevent the sale of ‘blood diamonds', or stones used by rebel groups to fund civil wars, such as those in Sierra Leone and Angola.

Diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange region have been questioned ever since President Robert Mugabe’s forces took over mining operations there in 2008 as part of his attempt to nationalise the industry. Since then, numerous reports of human rights abuses—including rape, child labour, and mass killings—have emerged.
Tomorrow, BBC Panorama airs an in-depth investigation into the scale and scope of these alleged crimes, and assesses whether or not Mugabe will ever be held accountable.

The controversy over Marange diamonds reached a peak on June 23, when the civil society branch of the KPCS walked out in protest at the body’s official meeting being held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The dozen African and international groups that comprise the KP civil society coalition, which includes Global Witness, clashed with KP Chairman Mathieu Yamba of the DRC. Yamba broke with the KP’s consensus-based decision making procedure by unilaterally stating that Zimbabwe could start exporting rough stones from Marange without having to prove their compliance with KP regulations first.

‘The case in Zimbabwe highlights the extent to which the KP isn’t able to [control] the members who don’t uphold the minimum standards to accountability,’ said Dunnebacke. She confirmed that Global Witness, which was instrumental in founding the KPCS, is currently ‘reconsidering future participation’ with the scheme.

Conservative MP Henry Bellingham, the UK Foreign Office Minister to Africa, said the UK is committed to ending the trade of conflict diamonds. Bellingham believes that Yamba’s recent decision cannot be considered valid.

‘Despite the statement released by the Chair of the KP in June, it is clear that KP members did not reach a consensus to resume exports of diamonds from Marange,’ Bellingham told the Ecologist. ‘Any agreement must ensure Zimbabwe complies with its KP obligations, and must be robust enough to ensure that the KP remains a credible and effective mechanism.’

Bellingham’s disapproval of Yamba’s unilateral action was echoed by other national governments including the US State department, which issued a statement saying it was ‘deeply disappointed’ by the non-consensus based decision.

The World Diamond Council, the group formed to represent the interests of the diamond industry in KPCS decisions, said in a press release that traders in the industry should avoid Marange diamonds for the time being.`The WDC urges all members of the trade to deal only in rough diamonds that are accompanied by KP certificates that comply with the consensus decisions of the Kimberley Process.’

Defining conflict diamonds

It has widely been quoted that less than one per cent of the diamonds on the world market are blood diamonds. However, Dunnebacke states this figure only applies when the narrow definition of a blood diamond is used, which only includes stones that rebel groups use to fund civil wars. In Zimbabwe, it is the legitimate (if controversial) government, not rebels, that is reportedly profiting from diamonds mined in inhumane conditions. In addition, Mugabe’s officials are failing to account for the proceeds from these stones in a transparent manner.

Farai Maguwu is a Zimbabwean diamond activist who was jailed and then released last year for allegedly 'publishing and communicating false information' related to human rights abuses at the mines. He said that if the KP is concerned with human rights, it must broaden its definition to include situations like the one in Zimbabwe.

‘In terms of ending rebel related conflicts the KP achieved its goal 100 per cent,’ Maguwu told the Ecologist. ‘But in terms of protecting people from diamond related violence, the KP has failed to find an answer, especially where it pertains to Zimbabwe. It's not about the identity of the perpetrator, whether it be government or rebel group that matters, it is all about protecting people.’

Maguwu is not optimistic when it comes to the prospect of average Zimbabweans benefiting from the vast mineral wealth that is found in their nation. ‘You have a situation where the Finance Minster says he is not receiving proceeds from diamond sales and then a quasi state institution [is] paying salaries for state employees using proceeds from diamond sales,’ Maguwu said. ‘Unfortunately diamonds are non-renewable and that day may never come when we [Zimbabweans] shall all say, “behold what our diamonds have done for us.”’

Zimbabwe as a symptom
However dire, the situation in Zimbabwe is only part of the larger challenge the KPCS faces at present. There are major underlying problems within the certification scheme as a whole that must be addressed, according to Dunnebacke. She cited administrative problems, including a lack of funding and a permanent secretariat, as well as issues caused by a consensus being required for every decision that's made.

The KPCS has a three-pronged structure: the civil society coalition, participating governments (of both producer and consumer nations), and industry representatives. Dunnebacke said that both government and industry have to make major changes if the KPCS is going to move forward as an effective regulator.

‘We need to face the facts now and see that government have failed in their responsibility to see that the KP is effective and industry has totally failed in their responsibility to see that there’s any supply train traceability,’ Dunnebacke said. ‘Its basic stuff - find out who your suppliers are, who their suppliers are, and then demand documentary evidence for that.’

In Zimbabwe's case, several possibilities remain. In the wake of Yamba’s decision, it's possible that Marange diamonds are being exported with KP certification attached. In addition, smuggled Marange diamonds could have already left Zimbabwe and been on the market prior to June's meeting. For these and other reasons, Dunnebacke says, there is currently no guarantee of a ‘conflict-free’ diamond on the market. ‘It’s not something the consumer wants to hear,’ Dunnebacke said. ‘But the fact is unless you’re buying from certain companies that have a “mine to market” certification scheme or from retailers that only buy from a certain mine, there’s no way of knowing.’

Maguwu says that it's sad that something as precious as a diamond can result in such suffering and wants to see it change. 'Diamonds are an expression of love, not hatred or pain,' he said. ‘This love must flow from the place of origin, from that remote village, through the whole production chain, right up to the consumer.’

For more information, see www.globalwitness.org


Debt: The albatross around Zimbabwe’s neck

Thursday, 04 August 2011 17:36
By Deprose Muchena
IT IS common cause that the Government of National Unity (GNU) has presided over a dramatic economic turnaround, which has seen the country claw its way back from the brink of total economic collapse. It is also widely acknowledged that there are serious obstacles in the way of a sustainable economic recovery. However, it is not universally known that one of the most serious constraints — indeed it is an almighty albatross around the country’s neck — is Zimbabwe’s massive debt burden.

To appreciate the full scale of the economic crisis, it is important to note that Zimbabwe faced a myriad of socio-economic and governance challenges prior to the inauguration of the GNU. The economy had cumulatively declined by 54,8% from 1999 to 2008, resulting in one of the longest recessions in the history of any country. Prolonged international isolation since the launch of the fast track land reform programme in 2000 resulted in no meaningful engagement with the international community and development partners.
Read More.....

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Slideshow - Cold Shoulder: Plight of Zimbabwe's Asylum Seekers

Desperation mounts as undocumented Zimbabweans queue for permits to live in South Africa before the deadline approaches, or risk deportation. View Slideshow via link below.


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