Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Still no decision on Zimbabwe diamond trade future

The international diamond trade watchdog, the Kimberley Process (KP) is still to make a decision on Zimbabwe’s trade future, after the deadline to discuss a proposed agreement was extended until next week.
KP members were set to meet on Monday to discuss amendments made to an agreement on Zimbabwe, which was rejected by the Zim authorities when it was drafted last year. But it’s understood that the deadline has been moved to January 17th, allowing members more time to review the amended agreement.
Last week Deputy Mines Minister Gift Chimanikire insisted that the KP had given the government the green light to resume sales. But a KP representative has refuted the claims, insisting that “no decision has been made yet.” The comment was made by 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.
Chimanikire has dismissed these comments, and has repeatedly said that the green light has been given to resume sales, stating he received a letter from the KP. But Alan Martin from the civil society group, Partnership Africa Canada, which is one of the KP participants, told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that no letter has been produced.
“He (Chimanikire) had a week to show that letter to the world and he hasn’t,” Martin said, adding: “According to my sources no such letter has been issued.” The state-owned mineral marketing agency in Zimbabwe is reportedly making preparations for two diamond auctions, despite there being no official decision from the KP. Martin explained that the government is actually free to have an auction, and that the only issue would be exporting the stones after they are sold. He said that exports have been suspended until the KP makes an official decision.
“Right now no diamonds from (Chiadzwa) can be exported,” Martin said, calling the issue a “grey-zonal area for the KP.” 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 to allow this to happen.

Written by SW Radio Africa

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