Diamond Digger Shot Dead in Cafunfo

Nelson Miguel Muatxicungo, a diamond digger, was shot dead on Friday evening by guards working for the private security company Bicuar in the Lunda Norte province, Angola. Muatxicungo worked in the informal sector of the diamond industry in the Tchimango area of Cafunfo, part of Cuango municipality. He died after being shot in the chest around 8pm.

Bicuar was hired six months ago by the mining company Sociedade Mineira do Cuango, which controls the diamond sector in that region. The largest private security company in the country, Teleservice, previously provided security services there. The informal diggers, known in Angola as garimpeiros, often have no choice but to bribe the guards in order to be allowed to continue digging.

“On Monday [September 10] we paid US$150 to four Bicuar guards at the Tchimango post in order to be able to dig diamonds together with them,” explained Monteiro Joaquim, 51, who organised the group of three garimpeiros.

“The Bicuar guards were watching us wash gravel, but on the night of the 14th they fired on us and killed Nelson.”

A man from the group of garimpeiros, Almeida de Sousa, 38, said the police investigated the case and identified and removed the body after being informed by the survivors of the attack.

“The investigating team from the National Police detained the head of the Bicuar post,” de Sousa said.

Lourenço Fernando, the victim’s uncle, said that after a meeting between representatives of Bicuar, the police and the deceased’s family, the security company had agreed to provide a coffin and take responsibility for the funeral.

A wake is currently taking place at the home of the deceased in the Bala-Bala neighbourhood in Cafunfo. Muatxicungo is survived by his widow and five-month-old daughter.

The killing and torture of garimpeiros has become routine for private security companies operating in the diamond mining area of the Lundas provinces in northeast Angola. There have been regular reports of similar cases.

The authorities bear principal responsibility for the wave of systematic violence against garimpeiros, given the lack of distinction between state officials and the shareholders of mining and security companies. The presidential family and certain military generals are the main beneficiaries of the Angolan diamond industry.