A British Member of Parliament said last week he hoped for free and democratic elections in Zimbabwe that will see President Robert Mugabe ousted, but the results were likely to be influenced by the barrel of a gun and money from blood diamonds.
Speaking during the debate on Zimbabwe’s blood diamonds, Jim Shannon said blood diamonds were funding Mugabe’s election terror campaign and Chinese mining company Anjin was playing a major role in financing the military and the Central Intelligence Organisation.
Shannon said at the last election Mugabe’s coalition partner controlled finance and, through that, where money went within Zimbabwe. Now, with money coming from blood diamonds, things had changed.
Ed: There was no coalition government at the last elections in 2008. There have been no elections since the formation of the coalition, or inclusive, government in 2009. The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front was totally in control of the finance and the 2008 elections.
Shannon’s speech in full:
Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Thank you, Mr Havard, for allowing me to speak. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr Hain) on bringing this matter, which is of interest to a great many people, to Westminster Hall. The right hon. Gentleman clearly outlined the case for Zimbabwe, and passionately spoke of the need for the British Government, Europe and the free democratic countries to be involved.
It is simply outrageous that some countries are intent on ensuring that blood diamonds are mined and then sold all over the world. Some such countries, as Members have already said, are China—in particular—Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Those countries and others turn a blind eye to where diamonds come from.
I want to focus on the funding through blood diamonds of Robert Mugabe’s election terror campaign, and how it will affect the future of Zimbabwe. Who is Zimbabwe’s main partner in mining blood diamonds? China. The shadow of China hangs ominously over many sections of Africa, but nowhere more than in Zimbabwe. Anjin Investments, a Chinese-led venture in Zimbabwe, has announced that it is the biggest diamond producer, with allegedly 3 million carats to sell. In return, that company is funding a new military college in Zimbabwe for Robert Mugabe. The much-feared Central Intelligence Organisation or CIO, Mugabe’s secret police force, is well known for torture, brutality and suppression of freedom and rights in Zimbabwe. The CIO is flush with cash.
At the last election, Mugabe’s coalition partner controlled finance and, through that, where money went within Zimbabwe. Now, with money coming from blood diamonds, things are changing, and edging much more towards the next election and Mugabe’s hopes for the future. Blood diamond money has purchased hundreds of new vehicles in the past few months and has rearmed the army with thousands of new weapons from China. Salaries have been increased, and thousands of new officers have been trained. We must ask why. Is it happening in advance of the election and constitution change later this year, and of future elections? Many suspect that it will be used to intimidate voters in the next election.
The key to the outcome of the next election lies with the problem of blood diamonds. Over the past nine years, the Kimberley process has failed to evolve or to address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny. It has been said:
“The KP has failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Côte d’Ivoire, breaches of the rules by Venezuela and diamonds fuelling corruption and state-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe” and “has turned an international conflict prevention mechanism into a cynical corporate accreditation scheme.”
That sums up exactly where we are.
The EU represents 27 member states. What discussions have the British Government had to work with other EU countries to stop or control the trade in blood diamonds? It is not an issue for the British Government alone; it is also an EU issue. We need to ensure that we work with our partners.
It is alleged that dirty diamonds are being mixed with clean gems, which means that corruption is happening at the highest levels. It is further alleged that officers in the Zimbabwean army hold senior positions in the Anjin partnership mining venture. Anjin has an estimated stockpile of up to 3.6 million carats. Should anyone be in any doubt about the extent to which Mugabe’s regime will go, the BBC has claimed in the past few days to have discovered a torture camp known as Diamond Base in one of the areas from which the EU wants to approve exports. Again, I suggest that the British Government and the EU need to work together strongly. Why approve something when evidence clearly indicates that torture, killings and brutality are taking place? We do not want those things to happen. I am sure that the Minister will respond positively.
I have had an interest in Zimbabwe—or Rhodesia, as I knew it then—from an early age. I have many friends who have lived and worked there, helping its economy and its people. That is why I am here to contribute to this debate. Ian Smith, former Prime Minister of Rhodesia, had a famous saying that many Members will remember:
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
I hope that Zimbabwe will have a free, democratic election and that Mugabe will be ousted, but I have some concerns, like the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), that the elections will be changed by the barrel of a gun and money from blood diamonds. We must, I believe, burst the blister of blood diamonds. The British Government’s involvement is critical.
The Minister is well known for his compassion and his level-headed responses, and we hold him in great respect. I ask him to show us how the British Government, along with their EU partners, will ensure that the democratic process in Zimbabwe is free of violence and brutality, and that the people can decide on their future.