In 2006 thousands of Zimbabwean civilians flocked to recently discovered diamond fields in Marange with the hope of finding gems. However, by 2008, the country was in the depths of an economic and political crisis and policing around the sites had disintegrated into anarchy. On October 27th 2008, Operation Hakudzokwi (No Return) was launched. The violent military operation involved indiscriminate fire without warning against miners at work and people in their villages (BBC, 2011). Miners and traders were tortured and beaten, scores of women were raped. According to one miner "the soldiers then ordered us to dig a grave and bury the bodies. We buried 72 bodies in that grave" (Human Rights Watch, 2009). Over three weeks, the military assault resulted in the brutal deaths of more than 200 people and soldiers forced the miners to dig mass graves for many of the dead.
In November 2017, in partnership with various civil society organisations, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance will be organising a commemoration for the victims of Operation Hakudzokwi and their families. However, the commemoration will not merely be about lamenting the past, but will focus upon bringing communities affected by mining together, in order to strive for justice and demand accountability from the government. We will be formulating petitions and running various workshops enabling the communities themselves to place pressure on policy makers to redress past human rights violations, and ensure future violations around mining activities are avoided. We will be particularly focusing upon raising awareness of, and ending, the continuing violence against women around mining sites.
Funding for this ambitious project is imperative. In order to bring previously disconnected rural communities and victims together we require funds for transportation, in addition to supplies such as clean water and food. Funding is also necessary for the team of lawyers we will be bringing on board in order to draft petitions and assist victims with justice. Despite Operation Hakudzokwi being a clear crime against humanity, there has yet to be any recourse for the victims. We hope that by holding this commemoration we can join the affected communities together and set upon the path towards justice.