On the 7th of March 2007, SW Radio Africa Producer/Presenter Lance Guma interviewed E-TV television producer Peter Moyo on Reporters’ Forum. Moyo was arrested in Mutare while filming illegal diamond mining and smuggling activities in Marange. He says from the evidence gathered the military and several senior government officials are heavily involved in the industry.
Lance: Welcome to the interview with journalist Peter Moyo, just a reminder he is the editor of www.zimgreats.com and producer with e-TV in South Africa. Peter welcome to the programme once again.
Peter: How are you?
Lance: I’m okay, you have been involved in quite a lot regarding this diamond issue and it’s triggered quite a lot of international attention. The starting point for this week has to be why did you decide to investigate the diamond mining industry in Zimbabwe.
Peter: Okay, the real issue behind the diamond story comes from basically the South African side, you know. I think when I went to Zimbabwe I uncovered a lot of things, which were happening there, involving a lot of corrupt government officials. But then the initial phase started in South Africa when you are talking about the Kimberly process document and tear it apart and throw it in a rubbish bin. You know it doesn’t work at all, things are happening behind every ones back and everyone knows it, that is the funny thing.
I went to Messina, Messina is just a few kilometres from the Beitbridge border post, and in Messina what I found out was that many Zimbabweans were coming through either border jumping or through the border, coming through with a lot of diamonds. When I say lots of diamonds, I mean lots and lots of diamonds and they were selling them you know, they are border jumpers, they have come from the other side, you don’t know how much, you know, when these things were found out in Zimbabwe nobody knew what the price was, so they would come through the border, start selling them to dealers, certified dealers in Messina and basically what the South African dealers from this side, from the Messina side, where doing was, they offer you a very low amount, they were basically reaping these guys who were coming with clear diamonds and the other rough diamonds as well.
And they were paying them almost next to nothing, just because maybe the rand is worth something to a Zimbabwean, basically maybe gullible and sell it or maybe if they didn’t sell to South African dealers what would happen is that the South African dealer would find South African police to go and arrest that guy and then the South African police where involved in taking those diamonds go and sell them themselves to South African dealers or either when the Zimbabweans border jumpers comes to sell, names his price, the South African diamond dealer would give him whatever the money was and set up some police guides to go and catch him, take the money, bring it back and maybe the South African police will get a cut out of it, I don’t know, but that is basically what was happening, so it broke my heart.
That’s where I started the issue. I wanted to go buy diamonds in Messina myself, try and sell them to South African and I went and conducted an investigation and I managed to prove this was happening, but then, I also wanted to go to Zimbabwe, find out what was the situation in Zimbabwe because I believed there was a bigger story to tell in Zimbabwe. So that’s how basically I started and decided let me go into Zimbabwe and find out, what was happening as well.
Lance: Now Peter why were you convinced posing as a ZBC crew would get you through the roadblocks in Marange.
Peter: Because it is quite difficult, the issue is there is of course private press in Zimbabwe; you know the issue of getting the story outside. You cant get through government officials, the police in Zimbabwe, if you are not from the state broadcaster, somebody aligned within the ruling party or something like that its another matter of who knows who and who is who. We had to find a way of going around it, that was to use a ZBC cameramen knowing that they are paid peanuts. That side they could get me what I wanted, because at the end of the day if you want a story, sometimes you have to dine with devil to get the story. But as long as you are bale to bring the true story, which is more than the cost of dining with these guys.
Lance: As you went through the diamond fields, posing as a ZBC film crew, where you not scared at any point, for your safety.
Peter: You know if you are determined, they always say, if you are determined to get a story, sometimes you get the shivers up you spine after. You get the after effect and basically I believe that is what happened. There was more to do with getting the story out, getting what was happening in Zimbabwe out in the diamond industry. I went through that. I think the only time. I felt unsafe when I got to the Marange diamond field. We get there, we see all these CIO’s, we see all these CID’s, we see all these soldiers, these police guys, they are all there menacing, looking at us like something else, basically that’s where I got the shivers. But then I never put it in my mind that I would ever be found out, that they would catch me at that time, I never put it in my mind, I think it was a consolation at the end of the day, so that is what got me through the way.
Lance: Lets get to the story here, what exactly did you see that you think could be the reason everything is secretive in Marange. What’s happening there?
Peter: What basically I saw, I think it starts with the police themselves, when I was speaking to guys in jail, when we slept in jail, these guys where saying you know what we had so much diamonds and the police have managed to confiscate them and not arrested us, this time we were just unlucky. When you confiscate something and you don’t put any record to it, it means the police were basically taking these things and selling them, then when we went through Marange, now when we drove through to Marange, What I managed to see where basically maybe police who were ready to say, you know what, you guys if have something, if you get something inside Marange you can pass through this roadblock, don’t worry you can just leave something for us and we will not arrest you, we will get you out of the way.
And when we went through the Marange diamond area, you know this is the most secure area, then you find digging, this is the most secure area, the place where they are concentrated diamonds, that is like the richest place in Zimbabwe, as far as diamonds are concerned. And so there are guys as I realized later, government officials who are already pegging areas, or businessmen who are linked to the party, already pegging the area. The area is already pegged, meaning they are mining claims already pegged in the area, is already being fenced, meaning these guys are already claiming certain areas and its definitely not those downtrodden poverty stricken villagers from Marange.
It’s powerful guys within the government and as you have realised if you find out if you find out, right now the Vice Presidents husband is very much involved in Marange, very much involved in Beitbridge as well, and when we went through finding all those diggings in an area which is already secured and these diggings were fresh, some where not even 1 hour old, but here were fresh diggings in these areas meaning there were some people who are definitely within the forces, who are guarding the area, there are some people who definitely plundering the place.
Lance: So it’s a case of who will guard the guards because the guards themselves seem to be also doing the digging.
Peter: Yes definitely.
Lance: Is this wealth that is being collected from this area, is this going through government channels, did you get any information on how its being marketed or how its being exported?
Peter: What we found out is that the MMCZ has been involved and as you will see sometime later in my footage, which I found out somewhere, you will find that these guys, when these diamonds where found in Marange last year in October, villagers were able to dig and get whatever they could get and MMCZ was driving around with a Fawcett car full of cash and buying these diamonds in the area during that time and they were buying them for a song. They were basically reaping these guys off, these villagers who didn’t know how much these things cost.
They were basically reaping them off whereas a clear diamond for a carat you get US800, what we found was that they were getting these diamonds at around Z$20 000 last year. A clear diamond which is about 10 or 20 carats. Its channelled through government through the MMCZ and through the RBZ. But as you know with the furore over the Nhara issue these guys are taking them out in pockets and going and selling them. We have situations where high profile government officials who are coming and selling to South African dealers, basically they don’t get searched at airports, they get out with these things as you will find out later in my story.
You will find there are powerful guys in Borrowdale who buy from government officials, you see and these are well known, they actually smuggle them out of the country because in the country you cant get a lucrative deal through the Reserve bank or MMCZ, so they basically transport them out of the country whether in suit cases or like what Nhara was doing. I don’t believe it’s the first time he was doing that, where they just put in their pockets and pass through the whole system, or if it is by road, you can just put in your car or wherever and pass through the border. There is no searching, nothing.
And when these things come into South Africa they are not certified, they are not even coming from certified dealers, but then they are sold to South African dealers who are certified and when they are sold to South African dealers with certificates, they are put through the normal process and then now its like the Kimberly process has not been flouted, everything is hunky-dory and diamonds are coming from any mine in South Africa. So this guy is bringing his diamonds through the diamond centre from a South African mine meanwhile half of his stock or three quarters is coming from Zimbabwe and at cheap prices.
Lance: Right Peter we are running out of time, but could you just maybe describe your arrest to us. How did you get arrested?
Peter: You mean in Mutare?
Lance: Yes in Mutare
Peter: The guys came early in the morning, we had finished filming, we had done Marange that Sunday, early in the morning Monday we were going to do some GB’s (general beauty shots) of Mutare and then finish our job. And then early in the morning around 7 to 8 thereabouts just an hour before we were about to knock off 3 CID guys came in with the cameraman William Gumbo and Courage Gumboseka or something like that and then these guys managed to identify themselves as guys from the CID minerals side, saying that I was a diamond dealer.
And then I told them I’m not a diamond dealer then they said they wanted to search, so they started searching the whole house, I gave them access, they started searching my hotel room after they decided, they cant find anything so they were going to take everything including camera equipment, which at that time they said, they were going to take everything and they put everything in the car an they were so agitated they thought that they were going to find diamonds. I think it was an issue of, if we find him with diamonds then there is a more serious case than to charge him under the accreditation issue, which elicits a Z$40000 fine if you are a first offender.
We drove to the Police Station, they search again, they found nothing and then they decided, okay what are you doing with cameras, then I said, I’m on holiday, so I’m taking memories back home, so they put us in a room, spent the whole day, refusing me access to the phone, they took my phone everything, they didn’t want me to do anything, to phone anyone, so they spent the whole day holding us in this room, not knowing what they were going to do with us, so around 4-5pm when a lawyer came around, asked them, are you charging these guys or not, otherwise release them, because they had also refused us to even phone my employer or even phone a lawyer, this guy came by chance and then now that’s when they said we are charging you under AIPPA, you are practising as a journalist or whatsoever and now it was late for them to release us and take us into court, I think that is what they had been waiting for and they decided they were going to close us in cells.
Lance: Peter, a lot of interest surrounds the footage, what has happened to that?
Peter: The footage was confiscated in Zimbabwe, we managed to apply to the courts to have it released, so that the lawyer could see the evidence and evaluate it. The order was given and the lawyer was sable to get copies. I believe the lawyers have some of the copies, but the other ones are being used against Andrew Nyashamba who is being charged for abusing public office.
Lance: Well Peter its been a pleasure having you on Reporters Forum.
Peter: It’s always a pleasure.