Shady group blocking official diamond sales

Top government officials are deliberately creating problems with the Kimberley Process so that they can continue selling controversial Chiadzwa diamonds in the underworld market, according to industry and political sources.

A review team of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), diamond dealers in Harare, politicians and civic organisations monitoring diamond dealings believe there is a cartel of greedy senior politicians, lawyers, unscrupulous businessmen and top civil servants who are making it difficult for KPCS to allow Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds.

Since diamonds are being sold unmonitored, the country is losing sales worth millions of dollars to underworld buyers in South Africa, Dubai, India, Lebanon and other diamond-dealing countries.

A report by the KPCS review mission, which visited Zimbabwe in August, revealed their surprise at Zimbabwe’s failure to meet KPCS requirements.

The team led by Liberia’s Deputy Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, A Kpandel Fayia, also observed deliberate attempts by government officials to frustrate their review mission.

"A challenge was experienced in that attempts to prevent a planned and authorised flyover by the review mission team of the Chiadzwa area and incidents of surveillance and intimidation of interlocutors limited the ability of the team to fully implement its mandate. Such incidents are considered unnecessary and contrary to the spirit of the KPCS," reads the report.

"Overall, however, there is still some way to go to achieve full compliance with the minimum standards of KPCS in the Marange diamond fields and also for the government to honour all of the commitments it has made in terms of the joint work plan.

"The review mission also found that further progress is needed for the government of Zimbabwe to fulfil all the commitments it has made in terms of the JWP and the St Petersburg agreement to further reduce the current level of illicit trading and smuggling of diamonds, which remain a challenge."

The report also says that Zimbabwe has to fully demilitarise the Marange area, improve relations between civil society and government, further improve the process of identifying and vetting investors and push for progress in developing a small-scale mining framework.

While government insists the country is banned from selling diamonds due to sanctions imposed by the West, civic society organisations and diamond experts argue that top government officials, including ministers, are not interested in meeting the Kimberley Process requirements.

Diamond rights campaigners in Zimbabwe have been carrying out their own secret investigations and some revealed to the Sunday Times that the failure to meet Kimberley Process was meant to benefit a few individuals who are smuggling diamonds outside the country.

"While it is true that Zimbabwe has enemies, the major problem with us in terms of selling diamonds is that we have greedy ministers who are running cartels of vultures who are denying Zimbabwe the chance to sell their diamonds through the correct process where they are monitored, said a diamond rights campaigner," speaking on condition of anonymity .

"Questions should be asked why Minister (Obert) Mpofu is failing to explain to the Kimberley Process how diamonds are benefiting the population.

"Zimbabweans and the world out there believe that only top sharks are benefiting from the diamonds because the ministry of mines is not giving out the data. At the Namibia plenary session last year, Zimbabwe was not banned because most of the country’s presentation was done by private companies.

"The Kimberley Process does not hate anyone. They want transparency but the ministry keeps going round in circles. To prove that these top sharks have a hidden agenda, they caused the arrest of diamond players in the country just before the plenary session in Israel two months ago. It was a deliberate plan to discredit the country so that we remain banned," said the official.

He claimed that there was a deliberate ploy by officials at the ministry of mines to mislead Zimbabweans that the Kimberley Process was being used by the West to ban local diamonds.

The diamond expert also suggested that President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai appoint a committee outside the ministry of mines to engage the Kimberley Process so that diamonds can be sold properly with every carat being accounted for.

But government insists that it has met all the requirements. On Thursday, Zimbabwe’s representative to the United Nations, Chitsaka Chipaziwa, dismissed claims that only the political elite were benefitting from the diamonds.

"Our diamonds are indeed for our own people," Chipaziwa said during a general assembly debate.