Global Policy Forum

Zim's Blood Diamonds to Become Legal


By Peta Thornycroft

April 4, 2010


The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) created seven years ago to stop sales of conflict or "blood" diamonds, is close to giving the green light for legal sales of stones from the controversial, highly contested and blood-soaked Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe.

A March 21 "fact-finding" report by the recently appointed KPCS monitor, South African Abbey Chikane, has "ignored" human-rights abuses, smuggling and the legality of commercial leases used by two new foreign-backed Zimbabwe companies to mine rough alluvial diamonds in the Marange area in Manicaland Province.

Critics say the terms of reference which the KPCS supervisors gave to Chikane - brother of former president Thabo Mbeki's director-general Frank Chikane - were so limited he could not have stopped any of the well-documented abuses in the diamond fields even if he had wanted to.

The KPCS appointed Chikane after the Zimbabwean government rejected the initial choice, a British diamantaire.

Chikane's report emerged this week after his visit to Zimbabwe from March 1 to 3, with a mandate to check the certification of diamonds for export in line with the minimum standards of Kimberley Process certification.

Several international human-rights organisations, and Ian Smillie, architect of the KPCS, say current KPCS managers should have suspended Zimbabwe's membership at the KPCS's annual meeting in Namibia last November, instead of appointing Chikane, with severely limited powers to monitor the controversial Marange diamond fields.

The Marange diamond area is now controlled and run by two new Zimbabwean companies, Mbada Diamonds, backed by South African company New Reclamation Group, in which Old Mutual has nearly a 6 percent interest, and a Mauritian-backed company, Canadile Miners, which Chikane says in his report has limited resources.

After De Beers gave up its leases on two diamond fields in the Marange communal area in 2006, a small British company, run by Zimbabweans, called African Consolidated Resources, was awarded two leases in the abandoned De Beer's claims.

The land now being mined by the two new Zimbabwean companies, Mdada and Canadile, in a joint venture with parastatal Zimbabwe Mining and Development Corporation (ZMDC), overlaps and conflicts with the two ACR diamond fields.

The High Court of Zimbabwe in September last year confirmed ACR's leases were legal and ordered all others still on that land to leave.

A subsequent Supreme Court interim ruling ordered all mining in the area to be stopped and all rough stones that had been mined to be handed for safekeeping to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

Smillie said this week about Chikane's mission: "The report reminds me of old debates in South Africa about whether Bantustans should be large or small, ignoring the question as to whether there should be any Bantustans at all.

"The major concerns about Zimbabwe's participation in the Kimberley Process have to do with human rights abuse in the enforcement of KPCS minimum standards; the militarisation of the diamond fields; rampant smuggling, including smuggling across the border into Mozambique; and the legality of the commercial leases in, and therefore the diamonds coming from, Marange.

"These issues were ignored by the Kimberley Process in creating terms of reference for the monitor, and so they have been more or less ignored by the monitor."

Smillie said that instead KPCS managers gave Chikane the limited mandate of checking whether the movement of gems from the excavations at Marange, through the on-site sorting routes to Harare where the KPCS takes place, was secure.

Chikane's aim seemed to be to see if there were any weak spots where rough stones from Marange could be stolen or other gemstones inserted into the stream.

He found a few which could easily be corrected.

But he assumed the Marange gemstones were "clean".

But that begged the real question of whether the Marange stones should not have been rejected as conflict diamonds, because of the dispute over ownership of the fields, and the earlier murders and assaults by soldiers as they ejected informal diggers from the area.

And Chikane had presumed Mbada Diamonds and Canadile were legal operators, ignoring court orders which had decided some of the land belonged to ACR.

Chikane merely warned ACR might go to court to prevent the export of stones.

He said there were "indications ACR may file an urgent application to stop shipment of rough diamonds" from the Marange fields, and that this might "require Kimberley Process participants and observers to apply their minds on the matter".

He referred only obliquely to the human-rights abuses when he noted the demilitarisation of the area was going well.

But Smillie said the issue in Marange was never about whether diamonds exported officially from Zimbabwe met KPCS minimum standards.

"It was, and still is, about diamonds the KPCS doesn't see, and about things the Kimberley Process still ignores after more than seven years in operation - governments that defy the rule of law, and governments that beat, rob and kill their own citizens in order to lay their hands on the wealth from diamonds."

Several human-rights groups asked the KPCS to suspend Zimbabwe at its annual meeting in Namibia last November, because of the many reports of gross human-rights abuses by President Robert Mugabe's security forces in and around the Marange diamond area.

The two Zimbabwe parastatals involved in Marange - ZMDC and its sister organisation which sells minerals, the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) - are listed by the European Union and US as restricted, and no citizen of the EU or the US is allowed to trade with either.

About 50 percent of polished diamonds are sold in the US.

Many western jewellers have already said they would not buy any diamonds from the Marange diamond area.

Zanu-PF Mining Minister Obert Mpofu has repeatedly announced he has cancelled ACR's licences in Marange.

He was responsible for awarding licenses to Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Miners to begin mining in Marange late last year.

He is due to present himself to a parliamentary portfolio committee to answer questions about the ongoing controversies regarding Marange diamonds.

Andrew Cranswick, CEO of ACR, said this week ACR would again ignore the "illegal" cancellation of its rights, as he said it was a "delaying" tactic to keep ACR "running back to the courts".

He said Mpofu was "squandering" Zimbabwe's assets with "shady companies".

This was stopping the "lawful" sale of diamonds which would alleviate Zimbabwe's economic distress.

ACR had proposed joint ventures with the government for the past four years, Cranswick said.

He said Chikane's report - which may lead to legal sales of Marange diamonds soon after his next visit to Zimbabwe which begins on April 6 - was "in direct contempt" of Zimbabwe's Supreme Court.

"It would be astonishing if the Kimberley Process were to wilfully endorse and thereby become complicit in contempt of court, which is a criminal offence in Zimbabwe.

"The obvious ramifications would be the possible future arrest of Kimberley Process officials and/or the authors of such a recommendation."

He said any diamonds exported from Marange would be trade in "stolen goods." - Independent Foreign Service


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