Zimbabwe’s diamonds saga continues- African diamond producers back Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s diamonds saga has taken another twist with African diamond producers saying they will back Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds from Marange and might even ask it to take legal action against those barring it from selling the diamonds.

Zimbabwe has been battling for more than 18 months to get its diamonds from Marange to be sold on the open market but two plenary sessions of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, in Namibia and Israel failed to give it the go-ahead.

A KP monitor appointed to steer the country to meet the KP requirements as well as a review team that was sent to the country in August have certified that the country’s mines are KP compliant but there has been stiff resistance from non-governmental organisations, Canada and Australia which claim that Zimbabwe should not be allowed to sell its diamonds on the open market because of human rights violations.

Zimbabwe now has one of the largest diamond reserves in the world and could account for a quarter of the world’s production.

There is now strong speculation that Canada and Australia are barring Zimbabwe from selling its diamonds to protect their interests.

Last week KP monitor, Abbey Chikane, authorised Zimbabwe to sell diamonds worth more than $160 million.  NGOs complained that Chikane had authorised the sale without clearance from the Working Group on Monitoring.  Matters came to a head on Thursday when outgoing KP chairman Boaz Hirsh of Israel said Zimbabwe could not sell its diamonds from Marange because it had not been cleared by the KPCS.

The African Diamond Producers' Association immediately stepped in demanding that Hirsch should withdraw his statement because his unilateral decision was illegal and not in line with minimum requirements of the KPCS.

"The outgoing chair is out of line and has no mandate from the KP plenary to make such a unilateral declaration,” ADPA executive secretary Edgar de Carvalho said in a statement. “ADPA calls upon Mr Hirsch to withdraw his statement with immediate effect. Otherwise, ADPA encourages Zimbabwe to take legal action to protect its interests.”

“ADPA might also be forced to make a declaration that might have severe negative ramifications regarding the continued participation of its member-states in a process that is clearly being hijacked and used as a vehicle for political and commercial agendas by a couple of participants in the KP,"  the statement went on.

"The motives behind the attempt to block Zimbabwean diamonds are sinister and driven by selfish motives on the part of those two countries (Canada and Australia)… and is a blatant abuse of the process. Australia wants to block Zimbabwean diamonds from entering the legal market because its Agyle mine, which produces diamonds similar in quality, is deep and costly and cannot compete with low-cost Zimbabwean diamonds. Canada is taking advantage of the conflict diamond issue to brand its own diamonds as conflict-free and not from a conflict zone (Africa)," the statement said.

"There is no civil war in Zimbabwe and there is no rebel group in that country attempting to overthrow a legitimately elected Government. Therefore, there are no conflict diamonds in Zimbabwe."

In another statement on Friday, the chairman of the African Diamond Council and ADPA, Andre Jackson reiterated that his association was fully behind Zimbabwe.

“Despite concentrated efforts from the government of Zimbabwe to act in accordance with the sanction of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), the Kimberley Process (KP) chair is not only playing a ‘cat and mouse’ game with the ADC’s most condemned member, but he is also deceiving KP’s most faithful participants in the midst of a bungling alliance as he makes his departure,” Jackson said.

“African diamond producing countries have visibly acknowledged the wavering position and policies of the KP and several have come to the conclusion that certification scheme fails to give confidence as well as attend to the economic requirements of the ADC members. In addition, these policies accompanied by the KP’s lack of commitment are fraudulently generated out of convenience for the back-end of the industry, while the front-end of the African diamond industry is left to bear the most profound burden.

“It’s apparent that KP does an excellent job exposing as well as retaining their internal problems and it’s even more detrimental for Africa’s diamond producers when the KP and the World Diamond Council (WDC) sets aside time to meet a couple of times per year without providing adequate solutions to serve the industry as a whole.

“The African Diamond Council (ADC) shall move to advise and encourage Zimbabwe to trade diamonds originating from Marange area and we shall willingly maintain our position to occupy the lead role to facilitate every potential and legitimate transaction from our practical perspective.  The ADC remains optimistic as we work to convince the Kimberley Process into becoming more skilled at breaking each impasse down into fragments and contending with one infinitesimal issue at a time.

“Since the Kimberley Process Diamond Certification Scheme no longer justifiably stands as the governing law of the land in many countries and while its administrators continue to function on borrowed time, ADC member states will be asked to communally stand together as a show of support for its singled-out member, the Republic of Zimbabwe,” Jackson said.

The United States, which until recently was strongly against the sale of Zimbabwe’s diamonds, is now fed up with the interference from non-governmental organisations and has already agreed to allow Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds.

Diamonds from Marange alone could create 250 000 jobs in Surat, India.

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