After four months of squabbling, a candidate has finally been appointed to monitor the Chiadzwa diamond fields in Zimbabwe. Abbey Chikane is a former Chairman of the Kimberley Process, and heads the South African Diamond Board. Since arriving in Zimbabwe in early March he has met with state-authorised mining firms and ministry officials.
Last year the Kimberley Process issued a set of guidelines to bring Zimbabwe back in line with international standards, and Chikane’s appointment is a part of this. Zimbabwe has until June to comply with the guidelines, having narrowly escaped a trade ban over human rights abuses at the diamond fields.
So far, the government has largely ignored the guidelines. Should the watchdog rule that Zimbabwe has failed to comply, it is likely that the country will sell diamonds without Kimberley Process certification, according to Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, who has repeated threats made by Robert Mugabe to that effect.
He was quoted in the press as saying: “If the KP is unsatisfied with our efforts and wants to be difficult saying that we have failed to comply with their requirements… we will not lose sleep, but rather we will just pull out and not lose anything. The KP does not own the diamond trade markets. Zimbabwe will pull out of the KP and sell its diamonds to those markets.”
Gabriel Shumba, from the Zimbabwe Bloods Diamonds Campaign, believes that the threat is not an idle one. In spite of the existence of the Kimberley Process, which was established to halt the trade in conflict diamonds, according to Shumba there are still ways of selling diamonds “regardless of the abuses taking place when these stones are mined.”
Finance Minister Tendai Biti has demanded that the laws governing the country’s diamond trade should be completely overhauled, and that all the mining leases issued by the government to firms in the Chiadzwa diamond field should be cancelled. Biti claimed that some of the leases were awarded ‘fraudulently’, and that despite millions of diamonds being mined, there is no revenue being generated for the government:
“There is nothing coming from Chiadzwa. There is nothing coming to the fiscus from Chiadzwa. Chiadzwa represents the biggest find of alluvial diamonds in the history of mankind. In the interest of transparency, all mining licences, leases, special grants that have been given in Chiadzwa must be cancelled forthwith. All mining operations must cease. There must be a new diamond law in Zimbabwe.”