Diamond CSOs slam Zim deal for ignoring human rights

The civil society wing of the international diamond trade watchdog, the Kimberley Process (KP), has slammed a new deal which green-lights the sale of Zimbabwe’s controversial Chiadzwa diamonds, saying it ignores human rights.

The deal was reached this week at the KP’s plenary session in the DRC, which was boycotted by the KP Civil Society Coalition over the body’s failure to end diamond fuelled human rights abuses. Such abuses have been ongoing in Zimbabwe’s Chiadzwa alluvial fields, where documented evidence of torture, violence and rampant smuggling is still being recorded.

But despite this evidence the KP this week ended a two year long deadlock on the country’s trade future and agreed that sales from Chiadzwa can go ahead.

The Civil Society Coalition, which includes Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), Global Witness and others, said the deal “lets Zimbabwe off the hook, again.” The PAC’s Alan Martin told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that Zimbabwe has failed to fulfill commitments it made to reform its diamond trade, which the KP is now completely overlooking.

“It seems that the KP was looking for an exit strategy on the Zimbabwe case, because it has really dominated the KP for the last two years. But this deal is a hard knock against an already battered initiative, that does nothing to protect the integrity of the diamond industry,” Martin said.

The civil society groups have also raised concern that the diamond sales might be funding ZANU PF’s campaign of violence ahead of fresh elections. Martin agreed that this is a serious, justifiable concern, because key ZANU PF members are implicated in the corruption at Chiadzwa.

Zimbabwe’s new diamond deal is a surprise turnaround from many Western KP members, who have previously raised concerns about ongoing abuses at Chiadzwa. The US, Canada and the European Union (EU) all dropped their objections against Zimbabwe this week, despite the US and EU both maintaining targeted sanctions against the same regime in control of the Chiadzwa diamonds.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US had abstained from Tuesday's KP vote, but chose not to block the measure.

"We think this compromise might have been stronger and that's why we abstained," Nuland told a news briefing. "So we judge that rather than having the entire Kimberley Process deadlocked over Zimbabwe we would abstain, we would let this go forward."

Nuland did not clarify how the US will be involved, given that its sanctions are still in place against the key Chiadzwa players, including the Mugabe family, General Constantine Chiwenga, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Augustine Chihuri, and Mines Minister Obert Mpofu. The state owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), which is part of two joint venture groups currently mining in Chiadzwa, is also on the US sanctions list.

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu has led ZANU PF’s welcome of the KP’s decision this week. Mpofu, who is on the sanctions lists, has been implicated in extensive fraud including a US$2 billion diamond fraud case. In March 2010 Mpofu attracted the interest of a parliamentary committee investigating the plunder of the diamond fields, when he went on a massive property buying spree.

He told a press briefing this week that the deal will help Zimbabwe economically, with the Chiadzwa fields believed to be worth at least two billion dollars a year. He insisted that millions of dollars have already been realised from diamond sales. This is despite Finance Minister Tendai Biti stating earlier this year that at least US$100 million in diamond profits has not been seen by the Treasury.

Analyst Clifford Mashiri told SW Radio Africa that until proper legislation is in place to ensure transparent diamond transactions, there is little chance that the decision by the KP this week will benefit Zimbabweans. He said the KP decision is “very disappointing.” – SW Radio Africa

Post published in: Politics

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