World Diamond Council boss Eli Izhakoff says members of the Kimberley Process do not have to like Zimbabwe to allow it to sell its rough diamonds legally. They must think about the future of the industry because it is better for Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds within the system rather than outside.
Zimbabwe, which has one of the largest diamond finds in the world, has been barred from selling its diamonds from the Marange fields because of alleged human rights violations.
The last KP meeting in Jerusalem in November last year failed to reach a consensus on Zimbabwe but the country was allowed to sell its diamonds on condition early this year but turned down the offer arguing that it will only sell its diamonds if there are no pre-conditions because its mines are KP compliant.
Matters came to a head when Kimberley Process chairman Mathieu Yamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo gave the country the go-ahead to sell its diamonds.
Members of the KP said Yamba did not have the mandate to pass such a decision but African diamond producers have backed Yamba.
The South African diamond regulator has given its members clearance to buy Marange diamonds. Mines Minister Susan Shabangu told Parliament that Zimbabwe was now free to sell its diamonds because it had met the KP guidelines.
Western countries and some non-governmental organisations insist that Zimbabwe has no right to sell its diamonds.
In an interview recently Izhakoff said although there appeared to be a standoff over Zimbabwe diamonds consensus was likely to be reached soon.
“Very recently in Dubai, the Working Group on Monitoring held an extraordinary session and a consensus in the committee was reached. Present were India, China, the United States, Australia, the NGOs, the industries, the United Arab Emirates and some other counties. There we did reach a consensus. We need that consensus to be more wide,” he said.
“Hopefully once we get over the mistrust that exists today and the prejudices about this mistrust I think that an agreement is possible because taking the chairman’s administrative decision and the decision that was arrived at in Dubai the differences are very minor. This is more a procedural problem and I think that it can be overcome.”
Izhakoff said it was crucial to solve the Zimbabwe problem because when diamonds found their way out illegally this affected the legal market.
“Anytime you have illegal diamonds flow out, it means they flow out at a lesser price. That is unfair to the people who deal legally in diamonds. This will actually be a weak link in the chain of the Kimberly Process and the chain is as strong as its weaker link.
“So we must have all the chains just as a strong and therefore the faster we resolve the issue (the better). And it’s not a question about loving Zimbabwe or wanting Zimbabwe to come in because it is Zimbabwe. The question is there is a producing country out there that produces a significant amount of rough and for them to be in the system is much better than they are out of the system.”
The Kimberley process is expected to meet in Kinshasa next week. Diamond expert Chaim Even-Zohar says the meeting in Kinshasa will be merely technical because whether the KP members agree or not, this will not affect Zimbabwe.
“In a few days, hordes of Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) bureaucrats will descend on Kinshasa, DRC, for their traditional intercessional meeting. They will, totally in vain, try to find a Zimbabwe solution while ignoring that, from a Zimbabwe perspective, there is no longer any problem since the KP chair already gave its stamp of approval on unmonitored Marange exports,” he says.
Here is the link to Izhakoff’s interview.