Zimbabwe’s blood diamonds

The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was established in 2002 by NGOs and the Diamond Industry to ensure the curbing of the sale of blood diamonds after the blood diamond-fuelled conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia and elsewhere, and the subsequent concerns within civil society and the diamond industry of consumer concerns and human rights abuses.

It’s members represent 75 countries, covering over 99% of global diamond production. The KPCS has seemed increasingly inhibited and incapable of action, however, especially in regards to Zimbabwe. An annual KPCS meeting on June 24 2010 ended unresolved as to the alleged corruption and human rights violations in the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe. Marange was discovered in 2006 and is believed to have one of the richest diamond deposits in the world – the value of diamonds smuggled out of Marange is estimated to have been worth $400 million in 2007 alone.

But the KPCS has repeatedly refused or been unable to take action regarding Zimbabwe’s blood diamonds, even though NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada have documented both irregularities concerning the sales of these diamonds and blatant human rights abuses committed by Zimbabwe’s police and armed forces, such as over 200 killings, torture, and manifold rapes of women. As has a Kimberly Process Review Mission that was sent to Zimbabwe in June 2009 to investigate the human rights violations as lack of compliance with the KPCS. The team concluded, that there were “several areas in which Zimbabwe [is] non-compliant with the minimum requirements of the KPCS”, and recommended that Zimbabwe be suspended from it for up to six months – a recommendation that hasn’t been followed.

One of the reasons for the inaction of the KPCS is that its members virtually have a veto in all matters to be decided upon, another reason is that some of the vetoing members insist that Zimbabwe is not in breach of the organisations founding documents, that state that conflict or blood diamonds are “rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments”. The inadequacy of the KPCS is further shown by the response of the Zimbabwean government to the rather inadequate attempts to resolve the matter, as well as to the critique from human rights groups.

Obert Mpofu, the Zimbabwean Mining Minister, has accused the human rights groups of “peddling falsehoods” and “demonising” Zimbabwe. He also insisted last week that Zimbabwe would go ahead and sell its diamonds from Marange with or without the approval of the KPCS. These diamonds are believed to be worth $1.7 billion, amounting to about 17% of the annual value of the global diamond trade, and many of them will in probably be smuggled into Mozambique to the many illegal dealers from Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Guinea, DRC, Nigeria and Israel already present. So Zimbabwe is clearly not intent on following the dictates of the KPCS, and the KPCS is apparently not intent on forcing them to do so.

As Martin Rapaport, American entrepreneur, member of the World Diamond Council, and early proponent of the KPCS, claims, “instead of eliminating human right violations the Kimberly Process is legitimizing them”. The response to such claims by the industry seems more concerned with customer concerns than human rights, even though the latter was to a large extent why the KPCS was initiated. Chaim Even-Zohar, analyst for Diamond Intelligence Briefs, a strategic consultancy house and think-tank serving stakeholders in the diamond industry, insists that “there is no way the international diamond industry can function without Zimbabwe being in the KPCS. Kicking Zimbabwe out of the system will undoubtedly destabilize the industry”.

The main problem thus seems to be that too many powerful people are making too much money out of the status quo in Zimbabwe to want to change anything. This certainly goes for the Zimbabwean government, especially ZANU-PF ministers, and as an extension, its police and armed forces – the latter rotating in 2 or 3 month cycles to ensure as many as possible benefit, and demanding that the many unofficial miners’ syndicates in Marange share their profits with them on a 50-50 basis.

The government officials, police, and armed forces all stand to win from the present situation, admittedly on different levels. The losers, on the other hand, are ordinary Zimbabweans – not only those whose human rights are trampled underfoot in Zimbabwe’s diamond fields, sometimes literally, but Zimbabweans in general.

The fact is that prominent ZANU-PF members, probably including the Mining Minister and Mugabe himself, are making millions from Zimbabwe’s blood diamonds and that this could potentially severely undermine the fragile Government of National Unity in Zimbabwe by giving ZANU-PF the means to finance an attack on its opponents like the one carried out during the 2008 elections against MDC members or sympathisers. The blood diamonds are also fuelling a less frequently reported, but no less dangerous, feud between various factions within ZANU-PF that are fighting for the right to succeed Mugabe or simply for power within the party.

So if the international community, including organisations such as the KPCS, are at all interested in making Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity work or improving the countries desperate situation, it should surely start pressurizing Zimbabwe and the KPCS into making sure that Zimbabwe’s diamonds start providing Zimbabwe’s public services with the cash it desperately needs instead of lining the pockets of politicians, the armed forces, and the odd foreign businessman.

According to Partnership Africa Canada, who conducted a field visit to Zimbabwe in April 2010, not one cent has entered Zimbabwe’s national treasury from Marange. On the other hand, the fact that Zimbabwean Mining Minister Mpofu was able to buy several properties in the Bulawayo area, including a race Course and a Casino, in early 2010 must surely mean that he is supplementing his ministerial pay grade.


Counting the cost of Zimbabwe’s blood diamonds, The Guardian, 23 July 2010

Zimbabwe: Cabinet agrees to sell uncertified diamonds, allAfrica.com, 1 July 2010

The blood diamond is making a comeback, Irin News, 30 June 2010

Official: Zimbabwe to resume diamond sales, Associated Press, June 30 2010

The blood diamond is making a comeback, Irin News, 30 June 2010

Zimbabwe under fire over ‘blood diamonds’, The Daily Telegraph, 21 June 2010

Zimbabwe: Whose diamonds?, AfricaFocus Bulletin, 18 June 2010

PAC condemns violence in Zimbabwe’s diamond fields, press release, 14 June 2010

Zimbabwe: Diamonds and Clubs, Partnership Africa Canada, June 2010

Zim defies diamond treaty, Sunday Independent, 17 January 2010

Diamond Intelligence Briefs No. 605, 2010

Global Witness, Return of the Blood Diamond, 2010

South African firms muscle in on Zimbabwe’s diamonds, SABC, 27 October 2009

One Response to Zimbabwe’s blood diamonds

  1. Read this great story about blood diamonds by Leslie Yeransian http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=1982146&page=1

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