UPDATE on Roundtable Discussion with Zimbabwe Rights Activist Farai Maguwu
(2012-12-07) On Friday, November 30, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) organized a public roundtable that featured Farai Maguwu, an award-winning human rights activist and director of the Center for Natural Resource Governance. Farai was joined by Shamiso Mtisi, who coordinates civil society initiatives around Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields and is a lawyer at the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, and Tor-Hugne Olsen, coordinator of the Zimbabwe Europe Network, a coalition of European trade unions and civil society organizations active in Zimbabwe. The three activists were in town to participate in the Plenary Session of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP) at the United States Department of State, where Zimbabwe featured prominently on the agenda. An impressive range of stakeholders from the human rights and policymaking community in Washington, DC attended the RFK Center event to hear insights on the KP and to engage in a timely discussion on the overall human rights situation in the country.
Since the 2006 discovery of alluvial diamond fields in Marange, located in eastern Zimbabwe, its potential to reverse years of severe economic degradation has been overshadowed by human rights violations, massive corruption, and "mind-blowing illegality." In fact, conservative estimates place the theft of Marange goods at nearly $2billion in the past four years alone. An untold amount of potential government revenue is allegedly being siphoned off to fund a "parallel government," whose main objective is to keep President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) regime firmly in power. The activists noted with supreme regret that the discovery of diamonds has “taken Zimbabwe backward a great deal” by placing massive wealth, and thus increased power, in the hands of a few, mainly political and military elites, at the expense of the general populace.
Despite these substantiated and growing concerns, the KP last week lifted the monitoring mechanisms previously in place to oversee Zimbabwe's mining industry, claiming that the country has now sufficiently complied with KP requirements. The decision ultimately means that Zimbabwe’s diamond operations will be licensed by the ZANU-PF Minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu, without being subject to external scrutiny. The activists stressed that Zimbabwe diamonds should not necessarily be banned on the international market, for there is a huge potential to uplift the economic station of many Zimbabweans. However, there is a pressing need for accountability, public disclosure of information, and revenue transparency, all of which do not currently fall under the KP mandate. Also of concern is the fact that the KP, during its plenary session, did not refer strongly to the protection of civil society, nor did it adequately address the issue of "blood diamonds." As such, the activists argued strongly in favor of a reform agenda that includes the creation of a new "international regime of business and human rights," one that the United States can help to advance as Chair of a key KP working group.
The ongoing concerns in Zimbabwe’s mining sector are without question amplified by concerns over the general human rights crisis in the country. The GPA, established in 2009, contains specific measures to promote freedom of speech and the rule of law, end politically motivated violence, and apply national laws to hold those responsible for human rights abuses. However, impunity has thus far reigned supreme and the power of one political party remains largely unchecked. The RFK Center believes that the strong link between dubious diamond proceeds and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe should generate heightened vigilance, particularly during the lead up to potentially volatile domestic political events that include a constitutional referendum and national elections slated for 2013.
(28-11-2012) We are pleased to invite you to the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights this Friday, November 30 at 3:00 pm, for a discussion with Farai Maguwu, an award-winning human rights activist and Director of the Zimbabwe Center for Natural Resource Governance. Farai will be joined by Shamiso Mtisi, who coordinates civil society initiatives around Zimbabwe's notorious Marange diamond fields and is a lawyer at the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, and Tor-Hugne Olsen, coordinator of the Zimbabwe Europe Network, a coalition of European trade unions and civil society organizations active in Zimbabwe.
Due to their tremendous work, Farai, Shamiso, and Tor have emerged as the foremost experts on Zimbabwe's mining sector and are widely recognized as today's leading advocates for reform, accountability, and the respect for human rights in an industry that is vital to Zimbabwe's future. This week, they are participating in the Plenary Session of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) at the Department of State where Zimbabwe features prominently on the agenda. All three will discuss the overall human rights situation in Zimbabwe, the implications of corruption in the country's mining sector, and provide feedback on the outcomes of this week's KPCS meeting.
Light refreshments will be served. The event will be live tweeted, #RFKChat.
at your earliest convenience. The RFK Center is located at 1300 19th Street NW (Suite 750), Washington, D.C.