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Diamonds: Zim accused of child labour

THE United States has accused Zimbabwe’s security forces of coercing youths into forced labour at the controversial Marange alluvial diamond fields, a charge Zimbabwe denies.
A human trafficking report released last week by the US Department of State claimed that security forces were subjecting “young men and boys” to involuntary servitude at the diamond fields.

Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi dismissed the report as “lies” adding that police were in the area on normal peace-keeping operations.
“It’s all lies. We are not involved in diamond mining in Chiadzwa,” he told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday. “We only have a police post there just like any diamond mine elsewhere. It’s all lies, this is a figment of their own imagination.”


The report named Zimbabwe as one of the countries still involved in human trafficking, and cited Marange as one of the areas where this practice was rife.
Soldiers are still in Marange guarding vast tracts that are yet to be allocated to private investors. It is in these areas which are still under military control that the US report claims human trafficking and forced labour are still rampant.

“The Government of Zimbabwe does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” read the Trafficking in Persons 2010 report. “While the government showed increased interest in trafficking issues and began to provide anti-trafficking training to some public servants, officials made no apparent efforts to proactively identify victims of trafficking. Members of government security services forced men and boys to perform hard labour in diamond mines.”

The report recommended that the government should stop using local populations for forced diamond mining.
“There have been no reports of prosecutions or convictions for forced labour or forced prostitution offences during the reporting period. Resource constraints in the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the judiciary continued to hinder anti-trafficking law enforcement activity,” the report reads. “Police lack human, financial, and other resources to conduct proper investigations. Significant delays in the court system often led to detainees remaining in custody for several years before their cases were tried in court.”

It added: “With the exception of deportees from South Africa and Botswana, the government’s law enforcement, immigration, and social services did not have a formal system for proactively identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations.”
The report provides assessments and recommendations for 177 countries, some of which are making “great progress” towards abolishing the illicit trade in human beings.  The report named Argentina, Ghana and Egypt as countries that have demonstrated commitment to stopping human trafficking in the past year.
Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees last week reported that Zimbabweans topped the list of asylum seekers in 2009, ahead of crisis-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia.

Bernard Mpofu

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