Farai Maguwu, the Director of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), who has been investigating human rights abuses at the Chiadzwa diamond fields was forced into hiding after police raided his office, his house and arrested and assaulted some of his relatives last week. On Thursday he handed himself in to Mutare police and was immediately arrested. The CRD has been forced to shut down and all staff are in hiding. Speaking the night before his arrest Maguwu accuses the Kimberley Process (KP) monitor to Zimbabwe, Abbey Chikane, of setting him up, as a result of a confidential meeting the two had about the ongoing militarisation of the diamond fields. Maguwu says his troubles started when Chikane (from South Africa) betrayed his confidence and shopped him to the police. He spoke to Violet Gonda of SWRadio Africa for the programme Hot Seat.
Gonda started by asking him to explain the chain of events that resulted in him having to go into hiding.
FARAI MAGUWU: It all started on Tuesday last week, in fact prior to Tuesday, I received an email from Abbey Chikane requesting to meet me on his second visit to Zimbabwe and I duly agreed to meet him on Tuesday 25th of May at 6pm and that particular day, 26th of May, he called me early in the morning and said he was no longer able to meet me in the evening, I should come in the morning. I told him it was a public holiday and I was not prepared to go to work early so I need some time to prepare and he kept on phoning, telling me that I have to come now because he wanted to proceed to Chiadzwa. Then I went to meet him at Holiday Inn and to my surprise, there were a lot of suspicious people sitting in the lobby and others were standing outside, so I discussed with him what we were observing in Marange especially with the issues of human rights abuses which are continuing, the issues of illegal panning activities and the smuggling of diamonds without the KP certification. Then the following day, that’s when we saw on television, the government alleging that Chikane’s emails had been intercepted and his itinerary had been ‘drafted by the Americans’. Then I immediately felt insecure and the following morning I did not go to work early suspecting that something was going to happen and then at around half past nine in the morning, a truckload of men in suits pitched up at my home and they were armed to the teeth and when they were advancing to my door, I slipped through the window and then they went on to start beating my relatives at home and they took one of them into custody and they kept him in the police cells, beating him for the four days. He was arrested on Thursday and he was only released on Monday. So when I saw these events unfolding, I felt very insecure and I felt like they wanted to do a Ken Saro-Wiwa on me so I went into hiding.
GONDA: Right and is there any understanding as to why exactly they were after you?
MAGUWU: They are charging me that I gave Chikane a State Security document which was drafted by the army and they are saying that was prejudicial to the State and that’s why they are looking for me.
GONDA: And did you do this?
MAGUWU: I did not give Chikane anything but in the conversation, Chikane himself, he mentioned this document and asked me about the contents in that document and I told him that I had not seen the document, it is hard for me to comment on something which I have not seen. So little did I know that that meeting was a way to set me up so that Chikane can create a story out of that meeting and resulting in all these problems that we are facing now, emanating from a meeting that I had with one person and in close confidentiality.
GONDA: So are you accusing the Kimberley Process monitor of setting you up and, if so, why would he do this?
MAGUWU: The reasons are to me, he is now part of the gravy train, there must be something that is going on behind the scenes between Abbey Chikane and ZANU PF officials who are plundering the Marange diamonds. And he obviously, him now being an interested party, if this case goes to court he is going to be a witness against me and him now being an interested party, it means he’s now working to advance the interests of one party against the other, that is the interests of the government against me.
And the Centre for Research and Development is a member of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, and this month we were due to travel to Israel to present our findings on the goings on in Chiadzwa especially matters of human rights abuses which are continuing, panning and smuggling and this setting up and all these nefarious allegations being levelled against me are simply meant to start a long legal battle that will keep me in the country and that will also paralyse the operations of our organisation. I think that was the intentions of Chikane.
GONDA: So has he made any statements or said anything about your harassment and I understand that not only was your brother in Mutare arrested but that your elder brother who’s at the University of Zimbabwe was also quizzed by the police?
MAGUWU: Yes, first I confirmed that one of my brothers was arrested and beaten severely and the other one who is doing “A” level in Mutare, he was detained at home for two days and he was being tortured at home by the CIOs who were now sleeping in my house and cooking my food and doing everything as if they pay rent there. And my brother also at the University of Zimbabwe was taken temporarily today and they were quizzing him and some concerned human rights organisations have phoned Chikane and written emails to him enquiring why all these things are happening when I met with him in confidentiality and at his own request and to the surprise of everyone, he is very arrogant. He is saying I possessed a State Security document and he is saying I knew that it was a crime to possess that document so I’m 100 per cent responsible the consequences.
GONDA: And were you given assurances by Chikane that whatever you discussed with him during that meeting would remain confidential?
MAGUWU: In the beginning, before we started talking, I told Chikane we are living in a very difficult situation where human rights are not respected, where there is a rule by law and not rule of law and my life is not secure discussing these issues with you and I need your promise of confidentiality in everything that I’m going to discuss with you and he promised me and he gave me assurance that nothing that we were going to discuss was going to be revealed to anyone except only for his own mission to help him on his tour of Marange.
GONDA: So what implications do you think what you are saying and what you are accusing the KP monitor of doing; what implications does this have on the KP itself and also with its relationship with civic groups in Zimbabwe?
MAGUWU: I think it’s really going to affect the smooth running of the KP, especially given that Zimbabwe is taking centre stage in KP issues since 2008 and now that this monitor, he had been appointed to try to resolve these issues and also to work with all the stakeholders in trying to help Zimbabwe to get this certification. Now the civil society coalition in the KP obviously is very angered by this unfortunate and unprofessional behaviour by Chikane. He may be forced to withdraw, to halt his monitoring activities, possibly another monitor may have to be found who is agreeable to both the Zimbabwe and the KP membership but this behaviour is putting a dent on the KP operations and its credibility as an institution because Chikane was coming here holding the portfolio of the KP and representing the values of the KP and given this corrupt nature of his behaviour, he’s really a very terrible agent of such a very respectable organisation.
GONDA: I understand from well placed sources that Chikane has defended his decision, he claims that you gave him the document, this document by the security forces, and he was saying that he handed it over to the security agencies to find out if it was 'authentic’ because he didn’t want to be in possession of an ‘illegal document’. What do you think this is about then because it doesn’t add up?
MAGUWU: Yah it’s true, I agree with you that it does not add up. I’ll give you an example, some few years ago, after Operation Murambatsvina the United Nations sent a special envoy to Zimbabwe and she met a lot of stakeholders and at the end of her fact-finding mission, she thanked everyone, she went out of the country, she did her work professionally which was well received by all Zimbabweans and she did not leave any Zimbabwean in danger because of confiding in her what really happened to the people and this is unlike Abbey Chikane, he is actually talking like a ZANU PF activist. He has no sympathy, he has got no empathy, he has no feeling for what is happening to me, to my family and to all the people I work with. Right now the organisation, everyone is into hiding. We expected him to protest to the Zimbabwe government that these people spoke to me in confidentiality and they were actually helping to make my mission possible but to our surprise it appears like he came as wolf in sheep’s clothing. So it’s quite very unfortunate that he is even having the audacity to say he went to the government to try to authenticate. In any case, if he receives any documentation, that’s why he was on a fact finding mission, he was supposed to go to Marange on his own and try to see whether whatever information he got from all quarters was correct, not for him to go to the government to say I received this document from so-and-so and is it true? That is very childish and primitive.
GONDA: For the benefit of those people who would not know what your organisation actually does, can you tell us about your organisation and what were your finding?
MAGUWU: The Centre for Research and Development conducts research and advocacy in the areas of human rights, in the areas within and around the Marange diamond fields. We look at the issues of panning, we look at the issues of smuggling of diamonds, so we also do some cross-border research to see what is happening in the town of Manica across Mozambique with regard to the Zimbabwe diamonds. So when I met the monitor, I gave him a report, which was titled “Porous Security at Canadile Zimbabwe”. I also gave him a report of the CRD, which was produced in April about the escalation of human rights abuses in Marange where the soldiers were going around beating people at shopping centres. These are the two documents, which I handed over to him explaining the level of smuggling and also the increase in violence against the civilian population by the military.
GONDA: What about this ‘leaked document’ that was allegedly compiled by an assistant commissioner Mawere? What was he able to tell you about this document because I hear it also highlights the fact that there’s been no security sector reform under the Global Political Agreement and that JOC is still very much in control in the Chiadzwa area?
MAGUWU: What he simply talked about, he mentioned issues of certain military bases in the diamond field where he was asking me whether I know of the existence of those bases. He also wanted to know the issues of the syndicates, which were being operated by the army. He was actually agreeing with our reports that what we were reporting were also featuring in that document which he was holding in his hands which he allegedly got from ZANU PF’s office confirming the operations of the JOC. And he was shaking his head in disbelief saying – I don’t understand how people can deny these things because to me it’s very clear and obvious that the military is still in control of the diamond fields and even the areas which are under the companies, they are not very secure, in some areas the military are still gate crashing into these areas. He also complained about the smuggling across the border, which could be traced back to the operations of the military and the syndicates in the diamond fields. So those were the issues which he was simply raising from that particular document but which were also resonating with the reports I handed over to him.
GONDA: Earlier on you talked about Chikane’s stolen emails. Now media reports actually quote him blaming the theft of his emails on ‘naughty intelligence’. In your view, was this an appropriate response from him?
MAGUWU: He was actually showering praise on the person for his ingenuity in getting into his emails and the like. We were expecting Chikane to burst out in anger and say – how can this be, that the government has disrespected my person, they’ve disrespected my mission, how can a government agent break into my privacy? He was supposed to protest even to the KP chair and possibly he was supposed to walk out of the country and say I cannot continue with my mission because my security is not guaranteed. But to our surprise he went on even to promise that certification is within sight, within two weeks it should be done, which means he voluntarily gave this information to the government of Zimbabwe and he was trying to expose anybody - be these people be Zimbabwean or be American or British or South African - anyone who was trying to show him some elements of non-compliance, he exposed them to the government of Zimbabwe so that his relationship with the government is solidified for whatever benefits he is getting which we do not know.
GONDA: Have you complained to the mother body, the actual KP to tell them about what has been happening or even the civil society in Zimbabwe, have they issued a statement to KP to complain?
MAGUWU: I’m still in hiding, I have no access to the internet at the moment but I will have to start the legal processes tomorrow and depending on the outcome of these processes, I’ll then launch a formal complaint to the KP chair in Israel about the behaviour of Abbey Chikane.
GONDA: You are still in hiding but for how long? The police are still looking for you, what is your next move?
MAGUWU: We have been consulting and we have been setting up our legal team and building up our case so tomorrow I will hand in myself to the police in Mutare and then from there we will see, the rest will be determined by whatever the charges the State will prefer and the legal team will respond to that.
GONDA: And you feel that this is the best way to respond, bearing in mind what you were telling us about your family members being assaulted and arrested?
MAGUWU: Yes Violet, I am a Zimbabwean, this is the only country that I call home, I believe our fight for the rights of the people of Chiadzwa and our fight for transparency and accountability in Marange diamond is a just cause. It is a cause for which I’m very much prepared to suffer any consequences. The reason why I was hiding is simply because these people they raided my home without, I was not prepared to face them at that time, I had not set up any legal team to help me, but now I’ve done my ground work and I’m prepared to face them come what may. We need to continue with the struggle. Zimbabwe is for all Zimbabweans, it is not for a few privileged people no matter how powerful they are, no matter whatever weapons at their disposal, we need to share the cake, everyone must benefit from the resources of this country, not for Obert Mpofu and the political bosses to benefit with their families when everyone else is forced to feed on poverty and everyone else is forced to live on this island between malnutrition and starvation.
GONDA: Now I was actually going to ask you about those who are benefiting from the diamonds in Chiadzwa. Have you been able to actually gather the names of some of the people who are behind this plunder? And also do you know how much Zimbabwe is actually losing every month from diamond sales, from illegal diamond sales?
MAGUWU: For now it is difficult for me to mention names but all I can say is that the two companies that were formed which are mining in Chiadzwa were illegally licensed to mine there, in that the Minister did not follow the government tender regulations in awarding these licences. But coming to the issue of the losses which the government is incurring, we do not have a round figure of the total sums of the loss which the government is incurring - but the calculations we did on Canadile Mining alone, we noted that about two thousand carats are being lost daily through smuggling and theft by workers who we think have actually overtaken the syndicates and the army in supplying diamonds to buyers.
GONDA: And two thousand carats is roughly how much? Would you know?
MAGUWU: Unfortunately I cannot really give a figure because this one is actually, I have tried, we are still making some consultations on the exact value of such amount of diamonds so I cannot really disclose at the moment how much that can cost.
GONDA: What about the issue of the human rights abuses?
MAGUWU: We have gone to the fields, we have gone to areas surrounding Chiadzwa where the army occasionally go out to beat people indiscriminately. We are talking of elderly people who are going to the shops or coming from church, people are just beaten for no apparent reason. Then there are cases of armed robberies by the military where they are robbing people of their valuables. There are also cases of sexual harassment where women are taken as sex slaves. All these things are happening in and around Chiadzwa and there are people, there is a man who is a former headmaster and he is paralysed now, he can’t even walk because he was beaten severely by the military. So these are the abuses we are saying they should stop.
And go all over the world there is nowhere where the military is involved in mining. The role of the military is to defend the country from external enemies. There are companies, there are a lot of Zimbabweans who are jobless. Unemployment rate is standing at about 85 per cent at the moment. We can’t say the government has failed to find people who can work in Marange and produce diamonds for the country. So the military has to be replaced by trained security guards.
And also the other problem Violet I must bring to your attention is that Marange diamond field stretches for about 70 000 hectares. Of that 70 000 hectares only about less than ten per cent is under production and as long as all these vast fields are lying idle, the problem of panning will never stop and therefore we will always get this lame excuse that we need the military because we need to protect the diamond field. Why is the area lying idle when the country is keeping on singing this song that we don’t have money, we need help from outside?
GONDA: So what about the inclusive government itself, especially the MDC? You’ve complained about the Mines Minister Obert Mpofu as being one of those people benefiting from what is happening in Chiadzwa. What is the MDC doing about it? Are you happy with the way the MDC is handling, if at all, this issue in Chiadzwa?
MAGUWU: I think the MDC has really disappointed in the area of Marange. First of all, when we talk about Obert Mpofu we must also remember that his Deputy is Murisi Zwizwai who is an MDC official and he has not really shown any light - we are talking about Murisi here. He has not protested about these things happening, rather it appears he is also part of the gravy train. We are not seeing him showing direction as a party that was carrying the hopes and aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe. The question that people are asking is - will the MDC produce a better diamond policy than ZANU PF when they are quiet when all these things are happening? So I should say as civil society we are quite disappointed by the silence of the MDC. Even right now, that ZANU PF is trying to pin me down, they are trying to do a Ken Saro-Wiwa on me because I’m speaking out against these human rights abuses and this theft of the national resource, the MDC is quiet about it which means they are complicit or they are supporting what is happening.
GONDA: I understand that recently a parliamentary committee was actually blocked from going or entering the Chiadzwa area, now I wonder have government ministers been able to go there?
MAGUWU: People like Murisi they go there whenever they want to and we have not heard them protesting against this denial by the police to accept the parliamentary committee into the diamond field. Whereas the, the ministers were not chosen by the grassroots people but the parliamentarians are the voice of the people because they have got a mandate of the people to be the people’s eye. So when these parliamentarians who have got all the legitimacy to debate anything and to go anywhere in the country are being denied access to such a rich national resource, then we begin to ask – to whom do these diamonds belong?
GONDA: Right and of course I’m speaking to you on the night before you actually go and hand yourself in to the police. What’s going through your mind with all that has been happening to you?
MAGUWU: Of course there’s the fear of being abused, you know in Zimbabwe even if you are, a country where the words ‘human rights’ do not exist so no matter how strong your arguments are you are never guaranteed of any protection of the law therefore there is this fear of handing myself to people who have been hunting me like they were hunting for a wild animal and who have been beating my relatives. If they have been beating even school-going kids, how much more when they find me? If they have been sleeping in my house for one week, sleeping on my bed, cooking my food, waiting for me in every corner of the neighbourhood, you can wonder what will happen if they meet me. So those are some of the things, which have been just coming to my mind as I ask myself whether I have made the correct decision to hand myself into them. But at the end of the day you’d say, it has to be done, we have to move forward, we have to tell them we are the people and these are our concerns - we too believe we have the right to live.
I thank everyone who is standing with us at the CRD. There is a lot of support from civil society within Zimbabwe and beyond and I encourage everyone to know, to stand up for our resources. This is a rich country but the moment we remain silent about things that matter, this is when evil will thrive so we need to unite and stand up for what is right and denounce what is wrong.
GONDA: Thank you Farai Maguwu for speaking to us on the programme Hot Seat.
MAGUWU: Thank you very much Violet.