Urgent review of Zim diamonds

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Johannesburg - The World Diamond Council (WDC) is demanding an urgent
inquiry into the Zimbabwean diamond industry. This is amid the violence on
that country's diamond fields, alleged diamond smuggling to countries like
South Africa and the use of diamond dollars to prop up Presid


Zimbabwe could now be in danger of losing its status as a legal diamond
dealer in terms of the United Nations (UN) Kimberley Process, which strongly
campaigns against trade in conflict diamonds.

Zimbabwe’s formal diamond industry is currently on its knees. The country
produces less than 0.4% of the world’s diamonds, but illegal exploitation of
alluvial diamonds increased sharply in 2008.

This is fanning fears that Zimbabwe can no longer exercise effective control
over its diamond production – a Kimberley requirement.

In an attempt to combat illegal trade, Zimbabwean security forces by the end
of last year had driven 35 000 illegal diggers and dealers from the
Chiadzwa diamond field near Mutare, the Zimbabwean police reported in
December.

Human rights groups claimed that air force helicopters had opened fire on
diggers, and the diamond newsletter Rapaport announced that about 200 people
had died in the fray.

In response to questions from Sake24, Eli Izhakoff, chairperson of the WDC,
declared in New York that the industry was "deeply concerned" about reports
that diamond trade in Zimbabwe was no longer complying with the terms of the
Kimberley process.

According to Izhakoff, a Kimberley Process team is drawing up a report on
Zimbabwe to determine whether "serious non-compliance with the mandates of
the Kimberley process" exists.

The WDC itself declared in January 2008 that it had received reports that
illegal Zimbabwean diamonds were being smuggled to South Africa, and were
being classified as legitimate and then exported.

"We request an urgent and immediate review of the (Zimbabwean) diamond
office and its procedures."

Analysts say that even if Zimbabwean diamonds remain legitimate, prospective
buyers should have sufficient information to be able to reject Zimbabwean
stones.

Standards (in the Kimberley Process) must evolve so that people can inform
themselves that diamond proceeds do not go to a regime committing massive
human-rights atrocities, says Nicole Fritz of the Southern African
Litigation Centre.

Prof Brian Raftopoulos, a Zimbabwean political analyst, reckons steps to
curtail Zimbabwe’s diamond trade should be seen as "another means of placing
pressure on the political mediation process".

"Diamonds are clearly one of the last remaining sources of funds for a state
that increasingly depends on its security forces for survival," he adds.

Post published in: Agriculture

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