Zimbabwe diamond crisis: greed and corruption is making a bad situation worse

Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), one of the civil society groups that exposed the blood diamond crisis in 2000, has released a damning report on the Zimbabwean diamond trade. The PAC report, titled Reap What You Sow: Greed and Corruption in Zimbabwe’s Marange Diamond Fields, exposes the continued plundering of Zimbabwe’s diamond resources by government and military officials. The report claims that the Minister of Mines, Obert Mpofu, has been instrumental in the flood of illicit diamond trading from the Marange fields. Approximately $2bn worth of diamonds have been exported illegally outside Kimberley Process (KP) controls with the ‘full knowledge and complicity of officials in the Ministry of Mines.’[1] Government officials have prospered as a consequence of this illicit industry. Mpofu is accused of funnelling funds from the illicit diamond trade into his personal accounts. In the last three years, Mpofu has spent $20m in cash – a figure that is at odds with his $800 per month ministerial salary.

Mpofu’s department has been criticised for awarding mining contracts to ‘dubious individuals without prior mining experience, often under very questionable terms or circumstances.’[2] Mining concessions were awarded with very little consistency and details of these deals have been concealed. The lack of transparency in the Zimbabwean mining department has created an environment that is conducive for Mpofu and his cronies to plunder the country’s resources. By circumventing official and transparent channels, Mpofu and his trusted allies are profiting from Zimbabwe’s natural resources whilst depriving the Zimbabwean treasury of much needed revenue.

Zimbabwe’s compliance with the KP minimum standards is yet another example of the inherent weakness of the KP. KP minimum standards are far too low and the KP has dismissed revenue transparency as irrelevant to compliance. However, a lack of revenue transparency conceals illicit trade, which is a significant loss to the treasury and Zimbabwean people. The continuation of diamond smuggling is indicative of the systematic failure of internal controls in the Zimbabwean mining industry.

Predictably, Mpofu has dismissed these claims as ‘madness’ and part of a conspiracy to prevent Zimbabwe from benefiting from its diamonds.[3] The report has marred the inaugural Zimbabwe Diamond Conference in Victoria Falls and has deepened fractions within the KP. The South African KP representative, Abbey Chicane accused Gillian Milovanovic, the American Chairwoman of the Kimberley Process of having a conflict of interest over US sanctions against Zimbabwean diamonds.[4] Chicane accused Milovanovic of failing to promote the trade of Marange diamonds in the US despite the wishes of the African delegates and suggested Milovanovic resign from her post. This rift could plunge the KP into crisis over Zimbabwe again and further tarnish the legitimacy of KP certificates. The KP is still in the same place it was a year ago – it is still being torn apart by the Zimbabwe problem and it is still failing to respond to the crisis. In the meantime, the Zimbabwean people are continuing to miss out on the benefits of a safe and legitimate diamond trade.

[1]        http://www.pacweb.org/Documents/diamonds_KP/Reap_What_You_Sow-eng-Nov2012.pdf

[2]        http://www.pacweb.org/Documents/diamonds_KP/Reap_What_You_Sow-eng-Nov2012.pdf

[3]        http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/12/zimbabwe-diamonds-mugabe-marange-fields

[4]        http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/south-african-urges-american-diamond-official-to-resign-at-zimbabwe-conference/2012/11/13/0212d70e-2dae-11e2-b631-2aad9d9c73ac_story.html

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