Tuesday, August 30, 2011
NGOs step-up anti-Marange fight
Affirmative Action Group (AAG) has blasted ongoing attacks on Marange diamonds by human rights groups as three international banking groups operating in the country were accused of allegedly enabling the sale of so-called "blood diamonds."
AAG President, Supa Mandiwanzira said since the Kimberly Process [the diamond industry’s watchdog] certified gems extracted from Marange, a host of non-governmental organisations had “started making unsubstantiated allegations of human rights abuses in Chiadzwa”.
"Thankfully right thinking citizens of the world are no longer taking these western-backed groups seriously as everyone, including the European Union, are now aware that the Marange diamonds are the most clean diamonds in the world when measured by the Kimberly Process's blood diamonds yardstick," Mandiwanzira said.
His remarks followed claims by Partnership Africa Canada that the Zimbabwe subsidiaries of Barclays Bank and South Africa-based Standard Bank were involved in the sales of Marange diamonds.
Standard Bank immediately dismissed the allegations.
“Standard Bank refutes the allegation by international human rights group Partnership Africa Canada that it or its affiliates own shares in Zimbabwean banks that have ties to the Marange diamond field.
"This (allegation) is unfounded and based on a misunderstanding of the fiduciary relationship between Stanbic Nominees and its clients,” the bank said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
Partnership Africa Canada also cited local banks, BancABC, Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe and Premier Banking Group, warning that by facilitating Marange diamond sales they were "participating in diamond-related violence".
The group's research director Alan Martin claimed: "These banks subscribe to a higher ethical bar than those who are trafficking these dirty (Marange) diamonds" from Zimbabwe's Marange diamond field.
Meanwhile, Mandiwanzira said attempts had also been made to bar his organization from attending a meeting called by the NGO’s to discuss Marange diamonds in South Africa.
"We had to fight to get our voice heard at this seminar especially given the fact that we are part of the civil society in Zimbabwe. But the seminar was clearly organised to up the tempo in the anti-Marange diamonds agenda. When we began to make our complaints louder, they quickly rushed to invite only one person from AAG,” Mandiwanzira said.
"We were are so surprised that a prestigious university like Vits would play host to such a partisan forum. Had it not been for our insistence to participate it would have been a Zimbabwe-bashing party. But we are going there armed with facts, a lot of facts," the AAG president said.
Rights groups want the Marange diamonds to be banned from the international market insisting they are tainted by allegations of killings, torture and forced labor.