A number of police officers have been arrested in diamond-rich eastern Zimbabwe for taking bribes from illegal miners to allow them to carry on panning, reports said Friday.
The police officers were being held at Harare's top security Chikurubi prison, according to a report in the state-controlled Manica Post newspaper.
The report and officials did not provide the number of those arrested.
The officers were arrested in the Chiadzwa diamond fields, the scene of a huge diamond rush that began last year and has caused enormous havoc to the environment.
Police had been ordered in to seal off the diamond fields. But some are suspected of having taken bribes from illegal panners of between 1 and 2 million Zimbabwe dollars (4,000 - 8,000 US dollars at the official rate of exchange) per half hour spent mining, according to the report.
A police spokesman said the culprits would be dealt with "mercilessly." "We should be worried about civilians, not police officers. They can break the law at their own peril. They should all know the song by now," said Assistant Police Commissioner Obert Benge, confirming the arrests.
Illegal panners told the Manica Post, which is published in the eastern city of Mutare - one of the hubs of the illicit diamond deals - that corrupt policemen were allowing them to pay and dig in areas believed to hold diamonds and then carry the ore they retrieved elsewhere.
Police officers are among inflation-riddled Zimbabwe's worst paid workers, with some believed to earn less than 8 million Zimbabwe dollars, the current poverty line.
Like many struggling Zimbabweans, they are likely to have been dismayed Friday by the news that President Robert Mugabe has frozen wages, rents and fees for the next six months in a bid to fight runaway inflation, currently clocking in at more than 7,600 percent.
Illegal diamond mining last year offered a fast route to riches for many who had previously been mired in poverty. The gems were greeted as a gift from God and the ancestors.
In a separate report, the Manica Post said at least 200 diamond panners last week moved onto Charleswood Farm, which once belonged to prominent white former opposition parliamentarian Roy Bennett. Buyers in flashy cars are reported to be prowling the nearby Chimanimani Village.
Last Mod: 31 Ağustos 2007, 18:25