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Pan Macmillan

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Dictators and Diamonds: Ahead of Elections, Mugabe Consolidates in Zimbabwe

The FearPeter Godwin’s recently-released The Fear looks back on Robert Mugabe’s 2008 campaign of terror and intimidation – a campaign that kept him in power. Now, with new elections coming up in 2011, worries are growing that a second wave of torture is about to commence.

The problem is complicated by the brand-new, 6000ha Marange diamond field in east Zimbabwe, which has been called “the biggest find of alluvial diamonds in the history of mankind” by Tendai Biti, the country’s finance minister. The potential revenue from the diamonds is estimated at $1-billion to $1.7-billion a year, which could do a vast amount of good to stabilise and bolster Zimbabwe’s economy and fund education. But it could also be used to fill Zanu-PF’s coffers.

Journalist Wilf Mbanga says that within days of the announcement of next year’s elections, journalists have been threatened, beaten and intimidated, and the situation is unlikely to get any better:

Mbanga, currently in exile in the UK, speaks about the ludicrous crime of “committing journalism”:

Within days of 86-year-old President Robert Mugabe having announced unilaterally that elections will be held in June next year, state agents and ruling-party thugs have been harassing, beating up, robbing and generally threatening independent journalists.

Despite having an arsenal of anti-press laws at their disposal, Zanu (PF) loyalists have resorted to using brute force to silence the independent media. This is nothing new. The tempo rises noticeably whenever an election looms. A fundamental tenet of Zanu (PF)’s election strategy is to silence any dissenting voices – no matter what. Tactics previously used include burning, bombing, murdering, arresting, banning and terrorising.

Barnabas Thondhlana looks at whether the diamond find will be a boon or a bane for Zimbabwe:

Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe’s finance minister, has described the 60000ha Marange diamond field in the country’s east as “the biggest find of alluvial diamonds in the history of mankind”.

Potential revenue is estimated at $1-billion to $1.7-billion a year, about half the crisis-ridden country’s total forecast GDP this year and enough to end its economic woes at a stroke.

Zimbabwean diamond deposits are believed to stretch from the northeast to the central and eastern parts of the country, down to the south and western parts, extending into Botswana, which also has vast deposits of diamonds. This translates to potential deposits which many have projected to be one-fifth of the world’s total deposits.

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