Thursday, June 16, 2011
Russia joins China’s fight for Zim diamond control
Russia is set to join China in controlling diamond mining in Zimbabwe, with the Federation’s state diamond group seeking a license to mine at the controversial Chiadzwa fields.
The Russian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Andrey Kushakov, said recently that his country has pledged to invest in mining and infrastructure development in Zimbabwe as a way of supporting the country. According to the Times of India news service, Andrey stated that Russia's state diamond group, Gokhran, will be investing.
Russia will have to compete with China, which already has a controlling stake in operations at Chiadzwa. China has two companies operating as joint venture projects with Zimbabwe’s state diamond firm, namely Anjin and Sino-Zimbabwe. China has also pledged its support for Zimbabwe to be given the green light to resume full diamond exports by the industry watchdog, the Kimberley Process (KP).
India has since raised its concerns that China and Russia will be monopolising the industry, with the Times of India reporting that the Surat diamond hub will be forced into relying on Russia and China for rough diamond supplies. Surat is the world’s largest diamond cutting and polishing centre, and most Zimbabwean diamonds are sent there.
Uncut diamond dealer Rakesh Patel is quoted as saying; “Zimbabwe has a stockpile of about US$4 to US$5 billion worth of diamonds. Once the KP clear Zimbabwe to export the diamonds, Russia and China will buy most of the stockpile. The same diamonds will come to India through different channels at high premium rates."
"It is a big blow to Indian diamond manufacturers. Both Russia and China will secure the diamond resources of Zimbabwe and ultimately sell it to Indian diamond traders via Antwerp, Hong and Dubai," chairman of Blue Star Group Ashit Mehta told the Times of India. He said that the Surat industry is in dire need of raw material and only Zimbabwe can fulfill these requirements.
Zimbabwe’s official trade status remains unclear after the KP chairman earlier this year made a shock, unilateral decision to allow exports to resume. Many of the western KP members have since said this decision was unjustified, but a final decision is still to be made.
In the meantime, pressure is building on the KP to allow Zim sales to resume, despite ongoing reports of smuggling and serious human rights concerns. China’s pledge to support Zimbabwe has also been followed by a statement by a South African diamond group, which said it will start accepting Zim stones. India’s concerns will now add more pressure to the KP.
Zimbabwean political analyst Clifford Mashiri told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that Russia’s intentions to join the Zim diamond trade are “disturbing,” saying their motives must be questioned.
“Russia is no better than China in terms of business and human rights. They are linked to corruption and they have a bad rights record, like China,” Mashiri said.
He added that the massive wealth being attributed to Chiadzwa should be a blessing for Zimbabwe, not something that benefits foreign countries that do not care about Zimbabweans.
“We have problems that easily could be solved and these are the things Zimbabweans want the diamond money to fix. But it requires transparency, audits, and political will,” Mashiri said.