The price of digging for diamonds

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Zimbabwe's government says the country's economy may grow 7% this year. Most of that comes from foreign investment and some aid. The African country is also hoping to raise money through diamond sales. Yesterday, we brought you the story of Zimbabwe's diamonds fields. Today in part 2 of her report, Laura Lynch looks at claims that the diamond fields have also become killing fields.

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH in Boston. Zimbabwe has been on a long downward spiral. But yesterday the country's foreign minister said Zimbabwe's economy may grow seven percent this year. Most of that comes from foreign investment and some aid. The African country is also hoping to raise money through diamond sales. Yesterday we brought you the story of Zimbabwe's diamond fields discovered in 2006. It's a tale of riches that have turned part of the country to near ruin. Today in part two of her report, The World's Laura Lynch looks at claims that the diamond fields have also become killing fields.

LAURA LYNCH: At a cemetery on the outskirts of Mutare, Crispin Dube uses an umbrella to clear a path through the long grass. Dube, a local politician, is taking me to the spot where he says dozens of bodies were dumped in two mass graves in December of 2008. There is no marker to mark the grave.

CRISPIN DUBE: This is a sensitive thing. I don't think they need . . .

LYNCH: Dube says he saw some of the bodies piled on the floor of the local hospital's morgue. A Human Rights Watch report says 83 bodies are buried here. In all, it alleges hundreds of illegal miners were killed by government forces strafing the diamond fields with bullets. Dube says Zimbabwe's diamonds have been a curse.

DUBE: Since then they say bloody diamonds.

LYNCH: You think they're bloody diamonds?

DUBE: Because people are killed.

LYNCH: Davidson, the gweja or diamond digger we met in yesterday's story claims he was there when the shootings began. Though there's no way to verify his claim, it is consistent with many other eye witness accounts included in the Human Rights Watch report.

DAVIDSON: People were being killed and I found a lot of dead bodies.

LYNCH: You witnessed people being killed?

DAVIDSON: I witnessed people being killed. I saw them. I saw it with my eyes. People killed at point blank.

LYNCH: But Zimbabwe's Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu denies any suggestions that a massacre took place. Zimbabwe's diamonds, he insists aren't stained with blood.

OBERT MPOFU: There has never, to my knowledge, any incident of mass killings as a result of diamonds. What I am aware of are a few deaths, in fact there are hardly more than five or seven deaths that have been reported as a result of people fighting amongst themselves. So anything else is totally false. It's not true.

LYNCH: At the cemetery, Crispin Dube takes a moment to look for another grave. This one is clearly marked and freshly dug. Lovemore Chanaiwa was 25 when he died on the diamond field a few weeks ago. Dube says his body bore signs of violence; a broken arm and stomach wounds. So Dube doubts the accounts of bystanders who claim Chanaiwa drowned in the river after digging for diamonds.

DUBE: So that's when he just disappeared in the river. That's what they are claiming, that he just disappeared in the river.

LYNCH: So they were saying it was an accident and he drowned?

DUBE: That's what they are saying.

LYNCH: But you still blame the diamonds for the fact that he's dead.

DUBE: Yeah. Yeah. It's a great loss to the family. He left behind a wife and small baby.

LYNCH: And Davidson knows he's risking his own life every time he goes back. He says wants to stop, but he can't. You're making a good living. You're making a lot more money than most Zimbabweans, you're quite comfortable. You're engaged in illegal activity. Why should anybody feel sorry for you?

DAVIDSON: You should feel sorry for me and for all the Zimbabweans who are engaged in these illegal activities just like myself. Feel sorry for us. We need work to do. This is not proper going there.

LYNCH: Zimbabwe is waiting for official approval from a U.N. sponsored agency, one that will give it the right to sell diamonds that are certified conflict free, not bloody. But as concerns mount over continuing allegations of abuse, young men continue to creep onto the fields of Marange determined to get rich or die trying. Here, where the bodies lie, the promise of a better life that was supposed to arrive with the discovery of Zimbabwe's diamond riches crumbles into dust. For The World, I'm Laura Lynch, Mutare.

WERMAN: You can hear part one of Laura's report on what some are calling Zimbabwe's blood diamonds on our website, the world dot org. You can also find her other stories from Zimbabwe there as well.