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KP deadlocked over sale of Zim diamonds

THE world’s diamond regulatory body has failed to reach consensus on whether to re-authorise Zimbabwe to sell Marange diamonds as Kimberley Process (KP)-certified blood-free stones.

This development could result in Harare trading gems from the controversial fields on unofficial markets unless a solution is found when a special meeting on the issue is held next month.
In a statement yesterday, the KP, a joint government, civil society and business group established to stem the trade in conflict diamonds, said such a stalemate was unprecedented in the 75-member organisation’s 10-year history.

Civil society groups and Western countries which are members of the KP successfully argued against adopting recommendations by its own monitor, South African Abbey Chikane, for Zimbabwe to resume immediate exports of Marange diamonds.
“While the majority of countries participating in the Kimberley Process expressed support for Chikane’s submission, a number of countries and civil society participants objected to the concept that Zimbabwe would immediately commence exporting diamonds from Marange,” read a KP statement issued yesterday. The conference sat through the Marange issue all night on Wednesday and reconvened yesterday without a breakthrough.

Efforts by KP chair Boaz Hirsch, chair of the KP Working-Group on Monitoring, Stephane Chardon, and Eli Izhakoff, president of the World Diamond Council (WDC) to narrow the gap between members supporting Zimbabwe and those opposed to certification failed.
“This situation is unprecedented in the Kimberley Process meeting,” said Hirsch. “But all parties are committed to further engagement. The KP is based on a partnership between governments, the diamond industry and civil society. I am committed to that end and I have asked Mr Izhakoff to jointly convene within the WDC Annual Meeting coming July 14th-15th, in St Petersburg, a mini-summit of the KP major stakeholders. Deliberations will continue in order to find a consensus-based resolution.”

The decision means Zimbabwe is now stuck with over 4,5 million carats stockpiled by Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Miners, joint venture firms between the Zimbabwe government and South African investors on disputed claims.
The KP decision came as a shock to
Zimbabwe’s team in Tel-Aviv, where the meeting was taking place. Diamond industry experts said after Chikane’s glowing recommendation of Zimbabwe, it would have been unusual for KP members to take a contrary decision, but a strong lobby turned the tables on Zimbabwe.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu had told a KP plenary on Wednesday that Zimbabwe would go ahead and sell stones with or without official certification, raising concern that Marange stones would flood illegal and Asian markets where buyers readily pounce on available diamonds.

“I would like to take this opportunity to advise that Zimbabwe will be immediately exporting its diamond stockpiles because we are KP-compliant and we need the money to drive the economy forward. We have invited the KP monitor to continue discharging his mandate under the supervised export arrangement,” Mpofu told KP members during the meeting on Wednesday when Marange diamonds became the subject of deliberations.

It was not possible last night to get a comment from Mpofu on the fate of diamonds mined at River Ranch and Rio Tinto’s Murowa mine. Mpofu, in a move seen as spiteful, banned the two mines from exporting diamonds until Marange diamonds received KP certification. River Ranch and Murowa had been exporting their diamonds under a KP stamp without problems until Mpofu’s decision to stop all exports from Zimbabwe.
The KP’s deadlock yesterday has again put Chikane’s recommendations under the spotlight.
In recommending Marange stones for immediate certification, which was revoked last November following reports of gross human rights abuses and illegal mining by soldiers, Chikane has ignored civil society assertions that Marange diamonds were still being mined in an environment of conflict and violence.

Farai Maguwu, one of the civil society activists who provided Chikane with information on illegal activities by the military in Marange, has been languishing in remand prison for three weeks on charges of communicating and publishing falsehoods prejudicial to the State. This was after Chikane controversially turned Maguwu’s information over to the police.
A Harare magistrate Don Ndirowei dismissed a bail application by Maguwu on Wednesday and remanded the activist in custody to June 30. Some of Maguwu’s lawyers have described the case as political persecution. The KP confirmed that Maguwu’s case had acted against Zimbabwe.

“In question was the continued implementation of the Joint Work Plan (JWP), agreed upon at the plenary meeting in Swakopmund, Namibia in November 2009. The meeting was clouded by the arrest of NGO activist Farai Maguwu by the Zimbabwean authorities three weeks earlier and the reports of his condition,” the group said in its statement.

Rights groups which campaign against trade in conflict diamonds said illegal activities that led to the suspension of Marange stones were as alive today as they were in November last year.
Elly Harrowell, the diamond campaigner for Global Witness said this week: “The violence in Marange continues as military syndicates smuggle diamonds over the border into Mozambique. Miners who are not part of these gangs are attacked. Anyone who tries to document the situation finds themselves in line for harassment from the authorities.”

Human Rights Watch, which has closely tracked activities in Marange and reported over 200 deaths of civilians at the hands of the army in 2008, said latest investigations showed that illegal activities were still rampant in Marange.

 

Farai Mutsaka

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