Twists and turns continue in the Marange diamonds saga. Israel, which relinquished its chairmanship of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme at the end of December, is making a last ditch attempt to get the KPCS to allow Marange to legally sell its rough diamonds.
Outgoing KP chair Boaz Hirsch has appealed to members to ratify an amendment of the Draft Administration Decision on Marange which now says any three members of the Working Group on Monitoring may submit a report on serious breach of the Joint Work Plan commitments instead of two.
A further amendment says in the case of a cessation of exports resulting from a breach, the WGM shall continue to assess the situation on at least a monthly basis. The WGM will have the authority to decide at any point that the cessation of exports is no longer appropriate.
Zimbabwe had refused to accept the earlier draft specifically because of what is now referred to as the “violence clause”. Mines Minister Obert Mpofu wrote to Hirsch on December 16 that Zimbabwe accepted the draft except for the violence clause and was therefore entitled to export its diamonds with effect from December 2, the day it accepted the draft.
“We wish to express our disappointment over your continued disregard of the KPCS rules and procedures, while accommodating the few participants who are openly hostile to Zimbabwe. Your conduct in this regard is wrongful and as previously advised, we reserve our rights,” Mpofu wrote.
In a letter to KP members dated December 29, Hirsch appealed to members to finalise the Marange issue saying he had asked incoming KP chair, the Democratic Republic of Congo, to allow him to deal with the matter until January 10- which is next Monday.
“I consider this revised draft to be my last effort as Chair to bring the issue of exports of rough diamonds from Marange to a successful close,” Hirsch wrote. “At the turn of the New Year, I urge you to consider your position on the proposed agreement in favourable terms, while also having in mind that reaching an agreement on this dispute will send a clear message; that the Kimberley Process, at the end of a turbulent and eventful year, is resilient and its members are determined not to allow contentious differences to undermine the notable success the KP has hitherto registered in influencing for the better, the lives of millions by working tirelessly to eliminate the trade in conflict diamonds.”
Observers have said that despite its tough stance, Israel has always wanted Marange to sell its diamonds but at the same time it did not want to upset its close ally, the United States. Israel has a thriving diamond industry and one of the members of its diamond exchange was expelled after being caught with diamonds from Marange valued at $200 000.
The diamond industry in Surat, India, is also facing a crisis because it wants diamonds worth $100 million a month from Marange but the Indian government stopped imports until the mines are cleared by the KP. The Marange diamonds alone can create 250 000 jobs in Surat.
The Marange mines have met the minimum requirements of the KP but they have been barred from exporting their production because of human rights violations by the army which is said to be still operating in the area. There have also been allegations that the diamonds from Marange are not benefitting the country but ZANU-PF and Zimbabwe’s military leadership.