Marange minefields open to media 'scrutiny'
Likely caving in to increased pressure to provide transparency on Zimbabwe's diamond fields, President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has been on a concerted charm offensive to gain publicity on the operations at Marange.
Observers have, however, dismissed the overtures to provide a glimpse into operations at Marange as a "publicity stunt" and "last-ditch effort" to clean up the image of Zimbabwe's battered diamond industry, long associated with "blood diamonds".
The efforts come at a time when persistent speculation prevails in political circles that Zanu-PF is piling up a war chest with which to fund the next election.
Since the beginning of the year, Obert Mpofu, the Mines and Mining Development Minister, has given the green light to tours of Marange by the media and civic society organisations.
There, journalists and civic society leaders, among them Farai Maguwu, who was arrested by police in 2010, have been taken on the tour to gain "enlightenment" and to see what really happens at Marange.
According to Mpofu, the tours are meant to ensure that the scribes write the "correct things" about the Marange diamonds and stop demonising it.
However a journalist, Moses Matenga, last month was detained for allegedly picking up a stone during one of the tours, although Matenga insists the stone in question is a lucky charm he got from church.
A separate trip was also organised for Morgan Tsvangirai last month, his first trip to the diamond minefields.
Even CNN, a sworn "enemy of the state" identified in the run-up to the 2002 elections by political turncoat Jonathan Moyo and banned from the country, was allowed in to document the operations at Marange.
In February, CNN's Robyn Curnow was allowed to film a documentary shot over a week. It is understood that international media houses encouraged by the CNN coverage are now scrambling to get their applications in to also have a look.
Political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said, "It's a calculated move by Zanu-PF to clean itself up ahead of the elections."