Head of marketing at the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ), the sole marketing and selling agent of all minerals produced in the country, Masimba Chandavengerwa told the committee on Mines and Energy that the Kimberley Process had “smuggled in” the issue of human rights abuses at the fields in order to label the gems “bloody”.
“From the discussions we have had with Kimberley Process (KP) people, their argument is that our diamonds are leaving this country illegally and even used to fuel wars outside our borders,” Chandavengerwa said. “Another dimension they are bringing in is the issue of human rights which is not there in the charter, the Kimberley Process charter, but they want to smuggle it in so that even if we say they are not “blood diamonds” they would say: But we have seen people beaten and there is the army and human rights abuses, which is something that we are fighting because it is not as per the original charter.”
He said the KP had no problems with what is going on at other diamond mining firms in the country, except for Chiadzwa.
“They are happy with the goings on at Murowa; they are also happy with the goings on at River Ranch but they are not very happy with what is happening at the Chiadzwa fields,” he explained.
Chandavengerwa said the KP had also complained about diamond selling points in Mozambique and buyers they are seeing there from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lebanon and other countries that are in war situations.
“According to them, although officially we are not at war here, our diamonds are not being used to fuel any war in the country, but because they are getting out of the country in their numbers into neighbouring countries and then finding their way into conflict zones, so they think they are still blood diamonds,” added Chandavengerwa.
The government last month moved swiftly to stop a planned sale of 300 000 carats of diamonds by Mbada Diamonds because of the absence of a KP monitor to oversee the sale and exports of any gems from the Chiadzwa diamond fields. The mining firm had also failed to inform relevant government departments, including the MMCZ.
Under a set of measures made in November last year and meant to bring Zimbabwe’s controversial diamond industry in line with KP standards, the diamond watchdog must monitor production and sales of diamonds from Chiadzwa where the army has been accused of rights abuses against civilians.
But Chandavengerwa told the committee that the government had failed to agree with KP over a suitable monitor to assess diamonds from Chiadzwa.
“We had agreed on a Nambian monitor, but there are various CVs that are available to be looked at. The KP wanted to send a monitor from De Beers, and someone else from Europe, maybe Belgium, but the government wants an African monitor or someone from the region,” he said.
International rights groups have been pushing for a world ban on Zimbabwe diamonds until Harare acts to ensure mining at Chiadzwa is in full compliance with KP standards.
The World Diamond Council has warned that it will push for Zimbabwe’s suspension from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme if the monitor is not appointed soon.