Marange - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe praised the
country's first community mining project Thursday, under new laws that give
mining rights to communities around the notorious Marange diamond fields.
Zimbabwe's so-called indigenisation, or equity, laws require
foreign companies to cede 51% of their shares to local blacks, in an attempt to
reverse the inequalities caused by the country's colonial past.
"The Marange community trust is unique in that it will
own mining rights rather than hold equity in the four companies (operating in
Marange)," Mugabe said at the unveiling of the scheme.
The Marange fields have been at the center of a years-long
controversy over alleged army abuses, and the Kimberley Process global watchdog
suspended exports there.
The ban was lifted last year, allowing two companies to
start exporting stones, a decision supported by China and India but opposed by
Western nations, rights groups and the industry.
Mining companies donated $1.5m to the Marange trust to allow
the communities to resume the mining of alluvial diamonds over the area
covering 6 800 hectares.
"We need to translate our political sovereignty into
economic independence," Mugabe said.
"Our indigenisation programme is one such deliberate
intervention that seeks to empower previously disadvantaged Zimbabweans,"
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is Mugabe's partner in
the power share government, has criticised the law, saying it will drive away
foreign investment, just as the country is recovering from a decade-long