HomePoliticsMpofu slur leaves KP further polarised

Mpofu slur leaves KP further polarised

A LATE-NIGHT brainstorming session in Tel Aviv to break a deadlock on the status of Marange diamonds handed Zimbabwe’s Mines minister Obert Mpofu a golden opportunity to attack his most vocal critics — while at same time leaving the Kimberley Process (KP) even more polarised on the matter.

The case of arrested diamond activist Farai Maguwu provided the Israel meeting with the twist that shifted events. Apart from affecting Marange stones certification, Maguwu’s predicament also left civil society organisations, Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) and Global Witness, key NGO members of the KP, battling against bribery allegations from Mpofu.

For Mpofu and many watchers, the Israel meeting was expected to rubber-stamp green light recommendations made by Abbey Chikane, a founding chairman of the organisation who was appointed by the KP to monitor Marange diamonds. The KP is a joint government, business and civil society group of 75 members formed to stem trade in diamonds mined in conflict situations, or those used to fund conflict and controls over 90%of the alluvial diamond market.

The meeting in Tel Aviv centered on Zimbabwe and turned out to be a battleground over Marange diamonds after Chikane’s recommendations for the immediate export of the controversially mined stones split KP members.

From the outset of the debate on Tuesday, it emerged  that Chikane’s report would struggle for approval after Canada, the United States, Australia, representatives of the European Union and civil society groups such as Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) and Global Witness, raised objections. Information from the meetings indicates that the arrest and subsequent ill-treatment of Maguwu came back to haunt Zimbabwe, whose fight for the certification of Marange diamonds was near after Chikane’s recommendations. Because KP decisions require consensus, mediation and last-minute efforts to avoid a historic KP stalemate became fraught after Western nations and civil society dug in their heels on rejection of Chikane’s recommendations.

“Civil society groups were adamant that Marange diamonds would not get KP approval at a time when one of their own, Maguwu, was still in prison and struggling with legal fees,” a source familiar with the meeting told the Zimbabwe Independent.  “It would have sent a wrong picture of the KP as a toothless body. Civil society groups, with the support of countries such as the US and Canada were concerned that human rights abuses would continue in Marange if Maguwu’s case was not resolved at the meeting.

“His arrest could deter other rights activists from monitoring Marange, which would leave the fields with a potential of escalating into some sort of war zone, a situation that would make it easy for diamonds mined in traditional war zones such as the Democratic Republic of Congo to be mixed with those from Marange to avoid detection.”

As debate raged on into Tuesday evening, with no consensus in sight, KP chair Boaz Hirsch, an Israeli, stepped in.  As the clock ticked to midnight on Tuesday, with efforts heading for a deadlock, two groups gathered separately to brainstorm.

One group included Hirsch, the chair of the Working-Group on Monitoring, Stephane Chardon, president of the World Diamond Council, Eli Izhakoff, and Sheldon Moulton, a country representative from South Africa.

NGOs, led by Global Witness and PAC and a representative from the United States met separately. It is at this meeting where what has become Mpofu’s biggest weapon emerged. During deliberations, like most discussions related to Zimbabwe at the meeting, the issue of Maguwu’s troubles came up.  A suggestion was then made within the group that Zimbabwe should be asked to set aside one percent of the net revenues from the Marange mines to help strengthen civil society in Zimbabwe and pay for costs such as Maguwu’s legal fees.

This was around 3am on Wednesday, two-and-a-half hours before breaking after the fruitless discussions.  The NGO group however dropped the idea when they met again on Thursday mid-morning following Hirsch’s extension of the plenary.

“It was too late. Mpofu had somehow got wind of the proposal and chose to fully exploit it upon returning home,” said a source.

Global Witness and PAC this week both rejected Mpofu’s claims, but confirmed the issue had at one time come up for discussion during the brainstorming sessions.

“The idea was never formally put on the negotiation table by civil society groups, or anyone else, and at no point in the informal discussions was it posited as a condition for the resumption of diamond exports,” said PAC’s Alan Martin.

While KP members say they are committed to breaking the Zimbabwe impasse at a meeting scheduled for July 14 and 15 in St Petersburg, the bribery claims have heightened fears that the Zimbabwe issue could tear the KP apart.

“The Kimberley Process managed to salvage some of its credibility last week by refusing to endorse a resumption of exports from Marange. Zimbabwe seems intent upon damaging the scheme further with this latest slur,” said Martin.

 

Farai Mutsaka

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