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Israel talks Zim up over diamonds

THE Israeli government is in talks with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to directly buy Zimbabwean diamonds as relations between the two countries continue to warm up after several years of acrimony.

Tinashe Kairiza

Zimbabwe and Israel have not had the most cordial relations as Harare has previously sworn allegiance to Jerusalem’s bitter rival, Palestine.

Until August this year when Mnangagwa appointed Ronny Levvy Musan as Zimbabwe’s Honorary Consul to Israel, the two countries did not have any diplomatic relations.

Musan this week said Israel wants to establish an agreement in which Zimbabwe could offer its vast diamond reserves as surety to unlock fresh lines of credit from International Finance Institutions (IFIs) and capital injections from investors.

Zimbabwe’s lucrative diamond treasure trove was touted as having the potential to meet 25% of global demand when it was discovered over a decade ago but the country has not benefited much from the resources.

The country is seeking a multi-billion dollar rescue package to douse an intractable economic crisis gripping the country.

Extraction of the precious stones in Zimbabwe has been characterised by opacity amid widespread concerns of looting of the gemstones by politicians and the politically connected.
So rampant was the plundering that government, in 2016, banned firms from carrying out operations, with former president Robert Mugabe revealing that Zimbabwe could have been prejudiced US$15 billion by mining firms understating earnings.

In an interview this week from his base in Tel Aviv, Musan said Zimbabwe can still yield considerable dividends if it sold its gems to Israel directly, rather than selling through “unscrupulous” buying entities.

“In my opinion and as I mentioned, if Zimbabwe uses its mines and its diamonds as guarantees to investors and banks who are willing to give Zimbabwe cash for it, it will help inject huge money into the economy and march Zimbabwe into a new era much faster than it seems.

“Of course this whole procedure must be controlled and responsible, in order to prevent corruption and really use it for the benefit of all Zimbabwean citizens,” the diplomat said.

”Zimbabwe is indeed one of the five leading countries in the field of diamonds and Israel is known as a leading country in the field of diamond trade, with branches in almost every country in the world. The absurdity is that there are many companies from all over the world who buy diamonds from Zimbabwe and come to Israel to sell them after adding their profit.”
Musan, whose appointment is meant to deepen ties between Zimbabwe and Israel that will result in Harare setting up a fully-fledged embassy in Jerusalem, said he was working on a plan that would result in the southern African nation marketing its precious stones directly to the Middle Eastern country.

He said: ”I am working hard to open a direct and daily channel in the field of the diamond trade between Israel and Zimbabwe; this will allow many traders from Zimbabwe to earn more,” adding that upholding property rights will be vital.

“The issue of mines is also very interesting and by the way one of the significant security measures that can be given to investors for their investment in the development of the various projects in Zimbabwe.”

During Mugabe’s last years in power, government revoked the mining rights of companies which were extracting diamonds in the Chiadzwa fields.

The seized diamond claims were merged under the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) — a state owned enterprise.

“Currently, I have a long list of merchants waiting to see and purchase goods from Zimbabwe. I am working to regulate the process so we can start activities immediately. The fact that I am trustee of Zimbabwe and Israel as Consul, can certainly give full confidence to those who want to work with us in this area, which relies mainly on trust,” Musan said.

”The diamond field is an area that can bring lots of money to Zimbabwe, can help Zimbabwe propel its economy and develop Zimbabwe in all other fields and we are happy to have the opportunity to mobilise all the forces working in this field to bring support to Zimbabwe and encourage its diamond industry.’.

Currently, Alrosa of Russia, ZCDC and Chinese outfit Anjin are mining diamonds in the resources rich Chiadzwa area.

Anjin returned to the fields, after a three year hiatus since government terminated the operating licences of firms in 2017.

Zimbabwe and Israel’s cooperation, which Musan is spearheading, spans across a broad spectrum that encompasses diamond mining, agriculture, security skills transfer and tourism.

As reported by this newspaper last week, Harare has already engaged Jerusalem for the deployment of security experts from Israel to train local forces in containment of civil disobedience in the face of a worsening economic crisis that has sparked violent riots since Mnangagwa took over in 2017.

Last year, Mnangagwa, in what was to become a landmark feat in over 20 years, met a high ranking official from the Middle East country after he met Israel Foreign Affairs minister Israel Katz on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.During the duo’s meeting, Katz invited Mnangagwa to visit Israel.

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