Zimbabwe’s quest for diamonds which catapulted Botswana from one of the poorest countries in world to one of the richest (at least in terms GDP) in Africa may be a little too late as the mineral is beginning to lose its glitter because the market is now saturated.
De Beers, the world’s diamond controller which buys 80 percent of the world’s production, is globe-trotting in an effort to keep a grip on the flow of the stones. Harry Openhemier has already been to Russia to try to stem the exports of rough and cut diamonds.
Experts say if De Beers fails to stem this flow, there could be a free-for-all situation. The countries that are likely to be worst affected are Botswana, Namibia and Zaire. Namibia’s diamond mines which employ 6 200 will start closing from 1995.
Angola is already losing millions through smuggling of the stones because of war in that country. An estimated 60 000 illegal diamond miners are reportedly operating in Angola producing an estimated US$600 million worth of diamonds. De Beers buys most of these illegally mined diamonds.
Even diplomats are allegedly involved in this smuggling. Reports say the Belgian ambassador to Luanda, Guido Vansina, was recalled last month amid suspicion that he may have been involved in diamond smuggling.
Botswana is already anticipating a drop of 850 million pula on diamond sales this year.
There has been intensified diamond prospecting in Zimbabwe in the past three years. The prospecting is almost across the country from the Zambezi Valley to the Limpopo where results have been promising and also along the Kalahari sands from Gokwe to Tsholotsho.