Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kimberley Process denies clearing Zim diamond sales

The international diamond watchdog, the Kimberley Process (KP), has reportedly denied giving Zimbabwe permission to carry on selling diamonds from the controversial Chiadzwa fields.

According to the news service for the US based Rapaport Diamond Trading Network (RapNet), a KP representative has refuted the claims made by Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Gift Chimanikire.

“No decision has been made yet,” said a spokesperson for the new KP Chairman in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC took over the Chairmanship of the KP from Israel on January 1, 2011 with Yamba Mathieu Lapfa Lambang assuming the Chairman’s position.

Zimbabwean media reported on Tuesday that Deputy Mines Minister Chimanikire said that the KP recently wrote to the government, confirming that it could market its diamonds.

“The KP wrote to us communicating that diamond sales should proceed,” Chimanikire is quoted as saying on Monday.

But the KP spokesperson told Rapaport News that the new Chairman is waiting for a response from all KP participants to an amendment to a draft agreement on Zimbabwe’s trade future. That agreement was originally turned down by the government when it was drafted in November last year. The KP Chairman set a deadline of January 10 to get a response from all KP participants about the new amended agreement. The KP spokesperson reportedly said that should the amendment be accepted by the participants, the revised proposal will be forwarded to Zimbabwe for approval.

Zimbabwe was suspended from trade in 2009 over human rights abuses at the Chiadzwa alluvial diamond fields, where the military has been accused of violence, forced labour, smuggling and murder. The KP, which was started to end the trade in blood diamonds, resisted pressure to ban the country completely. Instead, mining authorities were given a six month deadline to fall in line with international trade standards. That deadline was accompanied by a ‘Join Work Plan’ which included the demilitarisation of the Chiadzwa area.

This has not happened and there have been ongoing reports of smuggling and harassment by military officers. Despite this, the KP has continued its lenient treatment of the Zimbabwe situation, allowing two auctions of stockpiled diamonds last year. The sales were meant to pave the way for full exports to resume, but KP members have not reached the necessary consensus on whether to allow full exports to resume or not.

Efforts by SW Radio Africa to contact both the KP and Minister Chimanikire were unsuccessful on Wednesday.

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