via Diamond body lobbies for removal of Zim trade restrictions | SW Radio Africa by Alex Bell November 20, 2013
The international diamond trade watchdog, the Kimberley Process (KP), has this week lobbied for all restrictions preventing the sale of Zimbabwe’s diamonds to be removed.
KP members are meeting in South Africa this week for its annual plenary. The body, which was tasked with ending the trade in ‘blood diamonds’, has faced serious criticism for rubber stamping Zimbabwe’s diamond trade despite widespread concern about human rights and corruption.
These concerns include the uninvestigated deaths of an estimated 200 diamond panners in the Chiadzwa diamond fields in 2008, following a governed sanctioned clean-up operation.
Since then, other human rights abuses have been reported, along with repeated reports of corruption and illicit diamond trading.
Diamond profits have also not been remitted to the national treasury, amid reports from human rights groups that the money was instead being used to prop up the Robert Mugabe regime.
But regardless of these concerns, there has been renewed effort by international diamond traders to forge a relationship with the Zim diamond sector. In September, the European Union (EU) lifted its targeted, restrictive measures from the Zimbabwe Mining and Development Corporation (ZMDC), to pave the way for trade with the Antwerp World Diamond Council.
And this week at the KP session, which began on Tuesday, a call was voiced for the United States to lift its targeted measures on Zimbabwean mines. Representatives of 81 KP member countries heard this plea from the South African chairperson, who called on the US to follow the EU’s lead and allow Zimbabwe’s return to international trade.
South Africa’s Welile Nhlapo, who currently chairs the rotating presidency of the KP, said that Zimbabwe has moved on from the disputed July 31 elections won by Mugabe.
“We hope that those who continue to maintain such sanctions will also be able to lift them, because the lifting of these sanctions would assist Zimbabwe to bring stability and prosperity once again,” he said.
Farai Maguwu, who has campaigned for transparency and accountability in the diamond trade, said the KP stance was “problematic,” expressing concern by the group’s attempts to absolve itself of the Zimbabwe situation.
“Yes, there is need to ensure that Zimbabwe’s diamonds are traded without any hitches. But there is also need to attend to issues of diamond transparency to ensure the diamonds are not just sold as a blank check, but that they are properly accounted for and the revenues benefit Zimbabweans Maguwu told SW Radio Africa.
He added: “the KP seem not to be keen to monitor what happens and that has far reaching consequences.”