Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Chinese sell Zimbabwe diamonds
The first auction of gems from a Zimbabwean diamond field where the military stands accused of carrying out abuses was under way on Tuesday, a month after an international ban on sourcing precious stones from the area was lifted.
The diamonds were being offered for sale in Harare by Anjin Investments, a joint venture between a Chinese state-owned mining company and the Zimbabwe army, a top government official was quoted as saying in the state-run Herald newspaper.
According to the paper, the sale began on Monday. Last month the Kimberley Process (KP), an international regulatory system, removed Marange fields from its list of illegal sources, though rights groups say abuses still continue there.
Some 200 people were killed during a bloody crackdown by security forces against illegal diggers four years ago.
On Monday, Global Witness Foundation, the international pressure group lobbying against the use of diamonds allegedly used to fuel wars in Africa, declared it was withdrawing from the KP.
"The KP has failed to deal with the trade in conflict diamonds from Ivory Coast, breaches of the rules by Venezuela and diamonds fuelling corruption and state-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe," said GWF director Charmian Gooch.
The approval of sales from Marange "has turned an international conflict prevention mechanism into a cynical corporate accreditation scheme", Gooch said.
The government shrugged off the group's charges, with the Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu saying Global Witness "survived on opposing the trading of Zimbabwe diamonds on the international market. Now that Zimbabwe has been fully admitted, they have no work to do."
Harare has adopted a "Look East" economic policy and favours Chinese companies with good terms for business deals.