Addressing hundreds of business people at a meeting organised by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) meeting at the border town of Mutare last week, Biti said what was happening at the Chiadzwa diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe was an “embarrassment and a mess which has to stop.”
However, the Finance Minister promised that the relevant government departments would soon come up with solutions to make the diamond fields viable in order to generate the much needed revenue for the country.
Human rights organisations have accused Zimbabwe’s military of using force to profit from the diamond fields.
In a June 2009 report, the New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Zimbabwean security forces of killing more than 200 miners in 2008 – an allegation denied by President Robert Mugabe’s government.
Biti spoke as a fact-finding mission from the Kimberley Process and Certification Scheme had just recommended an embargo against diamonds from Zimbabwe amid allegations of human rights abuses perpetrated by members of the security forces instructed to guard the diamond fields.
The probe team from the 49-member Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) last month recommended that Zimbabwe be suspended from trade in rough diamonds with KPCS members for at least six months until better controls were in place.
Zimbabwe’s Mines Minister Obert Mpofu has, however, warned that the country’s struggling economy cannot survive the effects of another international isolation as a ban on diamond exports looms.
Mpofu said that an embargo on Zimbabwe’s diamonds would have serious financial repercussions for the mineral rich southern African country struggling to recover from a decade of economic meltdown and political bickering.
The ban on diamond would further cripple Zimbabwe’s comatose economy at a time the country’s six-month-old coalition government desperately needs more than US$8.3 billion to restore viability in the economy.
The embargo would deny Zimbabwean diamonds access to the huge diamond market represented by KPCS member.
The KPCS draws on governments, the diamond industry and concerned on-governmental organisations to prevent the trade in conflict diamonds, also known as “blood diamonds”, which are often mined with scant regard for the human rights of the miners, and have overwhelmingly been used to fund conflict.