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Channel 4′s Unreported World Focuses on Zimbabwe’s ‘Blood Diamonds’

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Zimbabwe is supposedly enjoying political stability under the coalition government formed in 2008. However, Unreported World finds a country still gripped by terror and violence.

Reporter Ramita Navai and director Alex Nott film undercover to investigate claims that gems from one of the world’s biggest diamond fields are being used by Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party to entrench their hold on power by buying the military’s loyalty. This is against a backdrop of human rights abuses, which victims say are being perpetrated by the military and the police.

Filming covertly and secretly, the team discover a climate of fear reminiscent of the pre-coalition Mugabe years. Almost everyone Navai and Nott meet is too terrified to talk about the diamond fields, including several members of the MDC party, which forms part of the coalition government. Some people do speak out, at great personal risk, detailing stories of beatings, killings and rape connected to the diamond area.

A military insider tells Unreported World how different Zimbabwean army units are allowed to rotate through the fields to make profits from the diamonds in exchange for loyalty to President Mugabe’s party. The serving officer claims syndicates of civilians are used by soldiers to mine illegally and they then sell the gems to middlemen.

The team follows the diamond trail, showing how smugglers move precious stones from the Marange fields across the border to the boomtown of Manica in Mozambique. Filming secretly, they show how buyers purchase the stones, no questions asked. It’s impossible to track the diamonds after this: from here they are absorbed into the international market and sold in high street stores across the world.

A UN-backed industry watchdog has been tasked with ending the sale of conflict diamonds. Called the Kimberley Process, it exists to ensure diamonds are not used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments. However, this narrow definition does not encompass the widespread reports of looting and human rights abuses connected to Marange. There have been claims it has failed to deal with the unfolding crisis.

On 1 November 2010, the member nations meet at an annual summit in Tel Aviv to decide what to do next. At the time of filming, many feared the situation in Zimbabwe could precipitate the end of the Kimberley Process, as internal politics and in-fighting about how it should proceed tear the watchdog apart.

The vast natural resources found in Marange could potentially change the fortunes of a country whose economy is in dire straits, and where poverty, hunger and disease are rampant. But Unreported World shows that despite the coalition government, Zimbabwe is a country still plagued by corruption and violence, presenting a serious warning of what is to come ahead of the 2011 elections.

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