The seizure of farmland for the purposes of commercial diamond mining in Angola’s Lunda provinces is causing widespread hunger and deepening poverty, according to new research to be released tomorrow by my friend, the Angolan journalist, Rafael Marques. The report focuses on the activities of the Sociedade Mineira do Cuango which is a joint venture led and managed by a British-based mining enterprise, ITM Mining, in partnership with the Angolan diamond parastatal, Endiama, and Lumanhe, a private company owned by Angolan Army generals. This report encourages us to think a bit deeper about the definition of so-called blood and conflict diamonds.
If you’re interested in knowing more, please email Rafael on firstname.lastname@example.org
For those of you who are reading this in Johannesburg, you can come and listen to Rafael speaking about this topic next Tuesday, 5th August, from 5.30pm. I will also be speaking alongside a former BBC colleague, Justin Pearce, who wrote an interesting book based on his days of reporting for the BBC in Angola from I think 2001 to around about 2003, An outbreak of Peace. Today, Justin is working on a PhD about Angola at Oxford. I’m very excited about speaking alongside these two very gentle men. Oh, and by the way, we’ll be serving drinks after… so, come.
I nearly forgot to tell you where: it’ll be on the 6th floor of the Richard Ward Building (who he?), on the East Campus of the University of Witwatersrand, in the WISER seminar room. And believe me, we are, truly… And you might wish to ponder that the talk comes exactly a month to the day before Angolans will go to the ballot box to vote in the country’s second ever legislative elections. Other facts for the uninitiated: Angola became independent, so to speak, in 1975; the MPLA has been the ruling party since then; there have been two presidents, Agostinho Neto (1975-1979, when he died in Russia, some say, was murdered in Russia), and José Eduardo dos Santos (1979 to date). Angola is currently the biggest oil producer in Africa, selling more petrol to the Chinese than even the Saudis. The country is, as Rafael’s report informs, about to become the world’s 4th biggest diamond exporter. In Angola, one in four children die before they hit five years of age, and over two-thirds of the population (estimated to be anything from 12m to 15m people) live below what aidies and economists call ‘the poverty line’. Luanda, the capital, is estimated to be the most expensive city in the world – yes, in the world – overtaking Tokyo.
Oh, and the presidential elections, are not due until this time next year, when the President will be celebrating 30 years in power. Isn’t that just nice.