Diamonds chief seeks to help Zimbabwe

Source: Diamonds chief seeks to help Zimbabwe | The Financial Gazette September 29, 2016

By Nyasha Chingono
AHMED Bin Sulayem, chairman of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), jetted into the country this week to assess the diamond industry in the country, mired in mystery and questionable conduct.
Speaking to journalists after a meeting with Ministry of Mines and Mining Development officials, Sulayem said he was not yet in a position to give a detailed account of the sector because he was still to visit the controversial Marange diamond fields.
“So far I am very happy, but after taking a tour of the mines, I will be in a position to give a response,” he said. “I understand that the mines are in the best conditions as compared to other mines in Africa.”
Sulayem is on an African tour and has already visited the Central African Republic and South Africa, among other countries.
“I am not here because there is a red flag or anything, it was a planned visit and I am here as the KP chairman to offer support,” he added.
He said his African tour was meant to encourage Africa’s participation in the determination of diamond prices.
“We are seeing good participation, we are talking to other partners to help African countries so that they can determine the price of diamonds before they leave their countries,” Suleyam said.
In October last year, following years of controversy over accountability of revenue from the Chiadzwa diamond fields, government announced that it was consolidating all diamond mining claims into one entity, the Zimbabwe Consolidation Diamond Corporation, in which it would have a 50 percent stake.
At least seven companies operating in Chiadzwa were to share the balance.
President Robert Mugabe revealed then that the decision had been taken after evidence of pillage of diamonds by operators, indicating that an estimated US$15 billion worth of revenue from diamonds had been lost from Chiadzwa.
Economic consultant, John Robertson, said Sulayem was unlikely to seek clarity on the alleged theft of diamonds.
“I think he might easily be satisfied that we are not in conflict because there is no evidence. Government might get away with it,” Robertson told the Financial Gazette.
KP is a joint government, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds.
Robertson said KP should investigate and bring to finality issues of land grabbing that happened during the diamond rush in Chiadzwa.
“They have the wrong narrative of conflict because we don’t have the same situation as Sierra Leone or other countries torn by diamonds conflict, but there is still need to look into these issues,” Robertson said.
Robertson said Zimbabweans had been robbed of billions of US dollars through smuggling and lack of transparency in diamond mining.
“We have been robbed of the earnings and the tax collector has been robbed of his taxes because senior people in the party cannot be held accountable. If there was transparency, we would be able to measure exports and royalties earned by government,” Robertson said.
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association’s head of research, Shamiso Mtisi, said Sulayem was in the country to entrench Dubai’s interests in Zimbabwe.
“He has come to entrench Dubai’s business interests. They have been buying our diamonds at an unfair price and his visit will not change anything,” Mtisi said, maintaining that Sulayem’s visit should achieve better valuation for Zimbabwe’s diamonds as the global diamond market was undervaluing Africa’s diamonds.
“He should be able to convince other countries to look into the undervaluing of diamonds. This is what (Minister of Mines and Mining Development) Walter Chidhakwa and company should demand,” said Mtisi.
Zimbabwe is currently supplying about three percent of the world’s total diamond output and its significance in the industry has been waning over the years.
Chidhakwa said Zimbabwe was setting up new structures to ensure that diamonds benefit communities.
“We are setting up new structures that we hope will lead to greater mining exploration of our diamonds and ensure that our diamonds are dug for the benefit of the communities in Zimbabwe,” said Chidhakwa.
Communities surrounding Marange diamond fields live in abject poverty.
Lack of value addition has also been identified as one of the major factors militating against the diamond sector, as diamond prices are set internationally.
“We feel we can make a contribution to international diamonds by providing good quality diamonds and ensuring that the cutting and jewellery making industries are supported,” said Chidhakwa.