Zim diamond deal questioned after smuggling revelations

The decision to allow Zimbabwe to resume exporting diamonds mined at the controversial Chiadzwa alluvial fields is being questioned, after the country’s Mines Minister admitted that smuggling is still ‘rife’

Obert Mpofu
Obert Mpofu

Obert Mpofu, who has previously insisted that Zimbabwe’s diamond industry was meeting international trade standards, last week admitted that smuggling is a serious problem. Mpofu also reportedly said he was shocked last week when Zambia and Mozambique allegedly sought to join the international trade watchdog scheme, the Kimberley Process (KP), despite not having diamond deposits of their own.

“We have information that a lot of our diamonds went through these countries. There are massive leakages at the border posts, but policing of the border is not the responsibility of the Mines Ministry. We believe our diamonds are being clandestinely smuggled out of the country,” Mpofu told a parliamentary pre-budget seminar in Victoria Falls last week.

Mpofu last week celebrated when the KP decided to green-light Zimbabwe’s diamonds for export, a decision that some observers say is completely undermined by Mpofu’s own revelations on smuggling.

The KP last year listed smuggling as an area that needed to be addressed before sales from Chiadzwa could resume, calling on the Mines Ministry to bring the country in line with international trade standards. But this never happened, and there have been ongoing reports of rampant smuggling, along with the ongoing human rights abuses.

The civil society arm of the KP has meanwhile slammed the new deal with Zimbabwe, because, among other issues, the smuggling problem has been overlooked.

Political analyst Clifford Mashiri on Tuesday agreed that the smuggling reports, now being backed up by Mpofu, make a mockery of the KP’s decision.

“The KP’s credibility is seriously in doubt and this does not help matters,” Mashiri said. “This also just shows how critically Zimbabwe needs proper oversight mechanisms and real transparency in the diamond trade.” – SW Radio Africa

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