Zimbabwe meets diamond trade standards - monitor
In what smacks of political compromise, a monitor appointed to vet Zimbabwe's adherence to the Kimberley Process has concluded that the state meets "minimum conditions" for a resumption of diamond trading.
At the same time, the monitor has cautioned against removing the army from the Chiadzwa diamond fields, in order to prevent smallscale miners from returning.
Yet it was members of the armed forces who last year were indicted for severe abuses against civilians working in the area, by a number of international human rights organisations.
Zimbabwe meets diamond trade standards - monitor
8 June 2010
HARARE - Zimbabwe has met minimum conditions set by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) and could start exporting the precious stones, according to a report by a monitor appointed by the body, which regulates global gem trade.
"Based on evidence provided by the government of Zimbabwe and private investors, and on...first-hand assessment of the situation, Zimbabwe has satisfied the minimum requirements of the KPCS for trade in rough diamonds," said a report by Kimberley Process (KP) monitor Abbey Chikane and seen by Reuters on Tuesday.
South African monitor Chikane was appointed to assess diamond operations at Zimbabwe's controversial Chiadzwa fields to the east of the country, following an agreement between the southern African country and the KPCS.
Zimbabwe's diamonds have come under the spotlight following charges of human rights abuses and gem smuggling at the Chiadzwa fields.
"The KP monitor is ready to supervise export arrangements, in close collaboration with the relevant Zimbabwean authorities and other relevant parties," the report said.
Two South African companies, Grandwell Holdings and Core Mining, are mining diamonds in 50-50 joint ventures with the government in Chiadzwa.
The government says it has stockpiled more than two-million carats while waiting for the Kimberley Process certification.
Zimbabwean authorities have recently voiced their frustration over their inability to sell the diamonds, with President Robert Mugabe and Mines Minister Obert Mpofu threatening to trade the gems outside the Kimberley Process.
Last month, Mpofu banned all diamond sales from Zimbabwe, including from Rio Tinto's Murowa mine, which produced 124 000 ct in 2009, and the privately owned River Ranch mine, until the country got KPCS approval to sell the Chiadzwa diamonds.
Rights groups accuse security forces deployed to the Marange fields by Zimbabwe's government of widespread atrocities in the poorly secured diamond fields and have been pushing for a ban on the stones.
In his report, Chikane cautions against the immediate removal of the army from Marange, saying it could result in the return of illegal miners. An estimated 30 000 illegal panners descended on the Chiadzwa fields in 2006.
"The immediate de-militarisation of Chiadzwa may present unintended consequences for the government of Zimbabwe," the report says.
"Indications are that any form of withdrawal will have to be conducted in a gradual manner. Based on this indication, the army may have to remain in Chiadzwa until conditions are conducive for withdrawal."
Zimbabwe bans all diamond exports
27 May 2010
Zimbabwe has banned all exports of diamonds until a monitor from the Kimberley Process regulator approves the sale of gems from a field plagued by human rights abuses, the mines minister said Thursday. "I have suspended all diamond exports from Zimbabwe with immediate effect unti l the issue of Kimberley Process certification scheme has been sorted out," mines minister Obert Mpofu said in the state-run Herald newspaper. "The issue is about Zimbabwe diamonds, but there seems to be a belief among our detractors that in Zimbabwe there are some diamonds which are pure or more acceptable to them than others," he said.
The Kimberley Process was created to prevent the sale of "blood diamonds" on world markets. The global regulator has given Zimbabwe until June to end human rights abuses in the eastern Marange diamond fields, where investigators documented forced labour, beatings and other abuses by the military against civilians. Kimberley's monitor for Zimbabwe, Abbey Chikane, is currently in the country to assess compliance with the group's ultimatum.
Zimbabwe has two other diamond mines, one operated by Australia's Rio Tinto and another controlled by Saudi group, Aujan. In January, Kimberley halted the sale of 300,000 carats of diamonds from Marange, saying the auction did not have approval. The mines ministry says more than two million carats have been mined since the beginning of the year in Marange, but none have been sold.
Global Witness, a British-based group that monitors the exploitation of natural resources, in January warned that the military still appeared to control large swaths of the Marange fields, which cover some 66,000 hectares (163,000 acres). President Robert Mugabe who controls the military under Zimbabwe's power-sharing regime has threatened to pull out of the Kimberley Process if the country is not allowed to sell its gems.
Zimbabwe: End Persecution of Activist Group
Human Rights Watch
2 June 2010
New York - Civil Society organizations, including Global Witness, Human Rights Watch, and Partnership Africa Canada, today condemned the state-sponsored harassment and intimidation of a Zimbabwean nongovernmental organization, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD). The group has been instrumental in exposing ongoing human rights abuses in Zimbabwe's notorious Marange diamond fields.
On May 27, 2010, the home of CRD's director, Farai Maguwu, was raided by Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation agents. They confiscated documents and equipment, and arrested Maguwu's nephew, Lisbern Maguwu. Farai Maguwu and other CRD staff have been in hiding since the raid, and lawyers attempting to gain access to Lisbern Maguwu have been interrogated and threatened by police. The raid came just days after Farai Maguwu had met with Abbey Chikane, the monitor appointed by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), who was in Zimbabwe to assess the country's compliance with a series of requirements that were imposed in November 2009.
"This is the latest in a series of attempts by the Zimbabwean authorities to intimidate Centre for Research and Development representatives, and stop them from investigating and publicizing ongoing abuses in the Marange diamond fields," said Bernard Taylor of Partnership Africa Canada. "Such harassment is wholly unacceptable and must stop."
The Centre for Research and Development is a member of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, an official observer of the international program. The Kimberley Process is a rough diamond certification program that seeks to eradicate the trade in conflict diamonds, responsible for fuelling brutal conflicts in the past. The CRD has played a central role in recording human rights abuses carried out by state security agents against local people in the Marange diamond fields and has frequently made this information available to Kimberley Process participant governments and working groups.
A number of prominent organizations, including Global Witness, Partnership Africa Canada, and Human Rights Watch, have documented grave human rights abuses in Marange and have called on Kimberley Process member states to suspend Zimbabwe from the program, halt the export of its stones, and broaden the mandate of the Kimberley Process to include human rights violations committed by governments.
Over the past two years, hundreds of informal diamond panners have been killed in eastern Zimbabwe by units of the Zimbabwean army and police, which have also been intimately involved in the illicit exploitation and smuggling of diamonds from Marange. Kimberley Process participant countries have so far failed to reach consensus on suspending Zimbabwe from membership. In November 2009, a compromise action plan was agreed upon by the Kimberley Process and Zimbabwe, but evidence, including the raid on CRD, suggests that while Zimbabwe might have addressed some technical concerns, the human rights situation on the ground has not improved.
"Kimberley Process member governments - and Abbey Chikane - must denounce this persecution and Zimbabwe's blatant disregard for the Kimberley Process' core principles," said Elly Harrowell of Global Witness. "Instead of working to bring the country's diamond sector into line with international standards, Zimbabwean officials have chosen to target rights groups for investigating and publicizing problems in the diamond sector."
Civil society groups are calling upon Kimberley Process members to suspend the monitoring arrangement provided for under the November work plan until Zimbabwean authorities give concrete assurances that people who provide information to the Kimberley Process will not be persecuted and harassed by the state security agencies for their actions. Until this happens, and Zimbabwe complies with all Kimberley Process requirements, consumers cannot be confident of buying diamonds that are free from the taint of human rights abuses.
The following organizations are signatories to this statement: Partnership Africa Canada, GAERN (Democratic Republic of Congo), Green Advocates (Liberia), Human Rights Watch, Fatal Transactions, GRPIE (Côte d'Ivoire), Global Witness, Zimbabwe Europe Network.
No one monitoring airlifting of Chiadzwa diamonds
2 February 2010
Controversial mining house, Mbada Diamonds, has airlifted diamonds from Chiadzwa to Harare without monitoring by the Mineral Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ), police, or any other authority in the country in what appears a clear violation of Kimberley Process (KP) calls for maximum transparency at the notorious diamond field.
Acting head of marketing at the MMCZ - the sole marketing and selling agent of all minerals produced in the country - Masimba Chandavengerwa told Parliament's mines and energy committee that, although his organisation evaluates and monitors the diamonds, it has not been represented when the gems are airlifted from Mutare to Harare.
Asked by ZANU PF legislator, Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, if the MMCZ was aware of the airlifting of diamonds from Chiadzwa, Chandavengerwa stunned the committee saying: "At the moment, (the airlifting is being done) without our knowledge." The MMCZ acting boss also conceded that handling of diamonds at Chiadzwa, also known as Marange, still fell short of KP standards - two months after Harare promised to act to review operations at the diamond field to ensure compliance with the requirements of the world diamond industry watchdog. Chandavengerwa said: "In terms of systems there is work that has to be done to meet the KP" standards. He however ruled out under-invoi cing of diamonds by Mbada saying "our own evaluators did the evaluation. Mbada also did their own, (whose results) which were very, very close".
Mbada Investments is a joint-venture formed last year by the government's Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and Grandwell of South Africa to mine diamonds at Chiadzwa. The ZMDC is also partnered by another little known South African firm Core Mining and Minerals in a joint-venture operation trading as Canadile Miners to exploit the Chiadzwa deposits. Harare agreed at the KP meeting in Namibia last November that all shipments from all production sites in the Marange field will be "subject to examination and certification by a KP monitor prior to export to ensure that the production and export of rough diamonds is compliant with the minimum standards of the KP".
But the Zimbabwean government and the KP are yet to agree on a monitor to keep an eye on the Chiadzwa operation with reports that Harare insists the monitor must be a citizen of an African country. Apparently, the KP had proposed to send a diamond expert from Europe to monitor the Chiadzwa claims. A planned sale of 300 000 carats of diamonds by Mbada was aborted last month because of the absence of a KP monitor and also because the mining firm had failed to inform relevant government departments including the MMCZ. The KP is a joint government, industry and civil society initiative to stop trade in conflict diamonds - rough diamonds used by rebel movements and other rouge groups to finance wars against legitimate governments.
Under a set of measures meant to bring Zimbabwe's controversial diamond industry in line with KP standards, the diamond watchdog must monitor production and sales of diamonds from Chiadzwa field where the army has been accused of rights abuses against civilians. International rights groups have been pushing for a world ban on Zimbabwe diamonds until Harare acts to en sure mining at Chiadzwa is in full compliance with KP standards. The southern African nation however escaped a KP ban last November but the global body gave Harare a June 2010 deadline to make reforms to comply with its regulations.
Meanwhile a ZMDC official refused to disclose to the parliamentary committee the names of members of Mbada Investments board. Little is known of the diamond miner except that its chairman Robert Mhlanga has strong links to Zimbabwe's military establishment that is accused of accused of stealing millions of dollars worth of diamonds from Chiadzwa and offloading them onto the foreign black market for precious stones.
Zimbabwe halts Marange diamond fields
The government said the process would only go ahead with international supervision
7 January 2010
HARARE - Zimbabwe's government on Thursday halted the sale of diamonds from its controversial Marange fields, saying the process would only go ahead under international supervision.
State media had earlier quoted the chairman of a joint venture firm set up by the government and two South African companies as saying diamond auctions would start on Thursday, but a senior government official said the announcement was premature.
"There was no auction today, no sale of diamonds," Thankful Musukutwa, permanent secretary in the mines ministry, told reporters.
"The government observes and is committed to the administrative decision of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme ... that all shipments from all production sites in the Marange area will be subject to examination and certification by a KPCS monitor."
Musukutwa said the government and the KPCS, which regulates the global diamond trade, were in the process of engaging a monitor to oversee the diamond sales.
"There will be no sales or exports of Marange diamonds until all government regulations and KPCS stipulations have been met."
Rights groups accuse security forces of committing widespread abuses to stop thousands of illegal diamond miners who descended upon the poorly secured fields in the eastern part of the country and have been pushing for a ban on Zimbabwean diamonds.
Zimbabwe Told to Improve Conditions
The KPCS voted last November to allow Zimbabwe to continue mining and trading in diamonds, but gave it six months to improve conditions in Marange.
The government, through mining arm Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, has partnered little-known South African companies, Core Mining and Grandwell Holdings, to set up Mbada Diamonds, a joint venture firm which is mining diamonds in Marange.
Mbada Diamonds chairman Robert Mhlanga told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that about 300,000 carats worth of diamonds would be auctioned in Harare on Thursday.
International diamond buyers from the Americas, Europe Asia and Africa would take part in the auction, he said.
The Zimbabwe government would earn up to 80% of the proceeds from the diamond sales, the Herald reported.