Zimbabwe may be stuck with Marange diamonds for two years


Zimbabwe is not likely to be able to sell its diamonds from Marange legally for the next two years if it persists with its confrontational attitude towards the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, an industry insider, Chaim Even-Zohar says.

The Kimberley Process has been insisting that the country cannot export the diamonds until it stops human rights abuses in the diamond producing area and complies fully with the KP requirements. Zimbabwe insists it has met the KP minimum requirements as set out at the Swakopmund meeting in Namibia in 2009.

Even-Zohar who has argued for the open trading of Zimbabwe’s diamonds but has strongly criticised the country for the way it has been handling claims rights in the area says the United States and its allies will not allow Zimbabwe to sell its Marange diamonds unless it makes significant progress on the outstanding issues raised by the KP and this could be take months, if not years.

He says the United States will consolidate its power in the KP in the next two years and will become the main driver of the much needed change in the KP’s structure.

During the debate on conflict diamonds at the United Nations this month, United  States representative Gregory Nickels said the United States had serious concerns about Zimbabwe’s lack of progress in establishing minimum requirements in the Marange area, the violence around that area and the government’s willingness to cooperate with the Kimberley Process.

He said there was “some way to go” to achieve the establishment of minimum requirements. Zimbabwe’s achievement of full compliance was essential to both the integrity of Kimberley Process and the international commitment to address diamonds and conflict.

Even- Zohar says what is disturbing is that Zimbabwe’s tone towards the KP has become rather defiant. “That plays beautifully into the cards of the United States,” he says. “Most KP participants suffer from ‘Zimbabwe fatigue’. We have said it before – ‘apathy’ is taking the place of ‘concern’.”

He says that though the Democratic Republic of Congo is taking over as KP chair this week, those who expect it to immediately facilitate rough exports from Marange will be disappointed.

The DRC is considered a close ally of Zimbabwe which fought against the rebels and Ugandan and Rwandan forces in the late 1990s to maintain Kabila in power.

“The DRC is a satellite of the United States, Europe and other ‘sanction’ countries,” Even-Zohar argues. “The dependency of the DRC on the IMF, World Bank, United States, European Union, and donor states is total. The DRC is not going to alienate donors just for the sake of Zimbabwe. That’s simply wishful thinking. I will not happen.”

“If one takes a broader perspective while looking at what happened in the Kimberley process during the last year regarding Zimbabwe, it becomes clear that the Americans and the NGOs came to Namibia in November 2009 determined that they did not want any rough diamonds from Marange to be sold out of the country,” Even-Zohar argues.


“Unable to garner international consensus of the Zimbabwe issue, KP participants settled for a complex Joint Work Plan which, at the end of the day, allowed the Marange mines to export only the equivalent of two months of production for the duration of the whole 2010 calendar year. Needless to say, Marange’s rough diamond stocks have grown dramatically and the overhang in the business is frightening.”

He says although Zimbabwe managed additional unsanctioned exports these got stuck in the pipeline as the KP showed that the system now had teeth. Only this week an Israeli dealer was expelled from the bourse after trying to bring in uncertified diamonds from Marange.

Even-Zohar says with the United States now firmly in control and likely to be the vice-chair of the KP in 2011 and its chair in 2012, it can successfully block all Marange exports if not for the next two years, at least before the Zimbabwe elections which President Robert says must be held by June  next year. Most people argue that the country is not ready for elections.

The West accuses President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party of abusing the Marange diamonds to maintain their grip on power.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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