There seems to be no end to the destruction from Robert Mugabe on the country he leads. For many long years we have watched and read the way Zimbabwe has suffered as a result of his ruthlessness, and desire to rape the resources of his country. The latest read from the Sunday paper is not so shocking given what we already know about this tyrant, but instead a further confirmation that Mugabe is running his country, through violence, ever further into the ground.
Zimbabwe’s military, controlled by President Robert Mugabe’s political party, violently took over diamond fields in Zimbabwe last year and has used the illicit revenues to buy the loyalty of restive soldiers and enrich party leaders, Human Rights Watch charged in a report released Friday.
The party, ZANU-PF, has used the money from diamonds — smuggled out of the country or illegally sold through the Reserve Bank — to reinforce its hold over the security forces, which seemed to be slipping last year as the value of soldiers’ pay collapsed with soaring inflation, Human Rights Watch researchers said.
On Friday, Zimbabwe’s government roundly denied the charges in the report, which cited visits by its researcher to the diamond fields in February and interviews with soldiers, miners and other witnesses.
The information minister, Webster Shamu, of ZANU-PF, said in a telephone interview that the report’s aim was to tarnish the country’s image, block the sale of its diamonds internationally and, “in so doing, deny Zimbabwe much needed foreign currency.”
“The whole report is just not true,” he said.
Last year Zimbabwe’s state media depicted the military blitz, code-named Operation No Return, in the Marange district as a push to restore order in the midst of a lawless diamond rush in the area.
But the Human Rights Watch report charged that the military killed more than 200 miners and used the push to seize the Marange fields.
Some miners died when soldiers opened fire from helicopters with automatic rifles mounted on them, the group said. Many of the dead were taken to the morgue at Mutare General Hospital, or buried in mass graves, the report says.
Army brigades are being rotated into the diamond fields, discovered in 2006, so more soldiers can profit from the illegal trade, the report says.
Villagers from the area, some of them children, are being forced to work in mines controlled by military syndicates and have complained of being harassed, beaten and arrested, the report says.
“It’s a big cash cow for the military and the police, especially since Zimbabwe is virtually bankrupt,” Dewa Mavhinga, the Zimbabwean lawyer who was the main researcher for the report, said in an interview.
Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled for 29 years, is now governing with his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, who spent the past three weeks in Western capitals seeking assistance for Zimbabwe’s devastated economy.
President Obama and European heads of state have generally declined to aid Zimbabwe’s government directly, in part because of concerns that it continues to flout the rule of law.
The Human Rights Watch report is the latest sign of growing international concern about charges of killings and human rights abuses in the diamond fields southwest of the city of Mutare.