Three U.S. State Department cables discussing Zimbabwe’s diamond industry were published in December by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
The communications portray a chaotic, violent atmosphere in the Marange diamond fields after Zimbabwe military tried to wrest control of the area from illegal diggers in 2008. A January 2009 cable quotes a tribal chief telling U.S. officials “many of his people have been killed, beaten, and arrested for dealing in diamonds.” An earlier cable notes that some diggers sought protection by “arming themselves with handguns and in some cases automatic weapons.”
“Some members of the police and army have deserted in order to join the digging,” the cable says. “[Some] still wear uniforms as they search.”
It concludes: “In a country filled with corrupt schemes, the diamond business in Zimbabwe is one of the dirtiest.” The cables also suggested that Zimbabwe’s ruling elite—including first lady Grace Mugabe—were the ones mostly benefiting from the sales.
One cable quotes Andrew Cranswick, CEO of African Consolidated Resources, which had mining rights in the region and is now in litigation with the government, fingering Ernest Blom, vice president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, as an illegal diamond trader, saying Blom “had been known to boast of his involvement in illegal Zimbabwean diamonds.” Blom “categorically” denied the charge, saying the cable was “unsubstantiated hearsay.”
ACR followed up with a statement denying that “Mr. Cranswick at any time formally engaged any U.S. diplomatic representative on any subject, including that of the disputed Marange diamond claims. In particular, at no point did he accuse any individuals of benefiting illegally from the Marange diamond field.”