Chikane Says Zimbabwe Meets Diamond Trade Standards

“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 2 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 carats 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.”

Meanwhile there has been no word about Farai Maguwu, who is director of Zimbabwe’s Centre for Research and Development who was detained by police last week for providing false information to Chikane of SA, during his recent visit to Zimbabwe.

Police raided the centre’s offices, confiscated Maguwu’s computer, work documents and car, forcing him into hiding, while his brother was arrested. Maguwu later handed himself over to police late on Thursday.

The raid drew sharp criticism from civil society, the World Federation of Diamond Bourses and the World Diamond Council. They said under the circumstances it was doubtful whether Chikane could effectively carry out his mandate under such conditions.

The official correspondence Maguwu was said to have given to Chikane apparently acknowledged that army units controlling the diamond fields were undisciplined and responsible for widespread smuggling of diamonds over the nearby border into neighbouring Mozambique.

Chikane said secret police had broken into his bags in Harare and stolen documents that were later released to pro-Mugabe media.

The Kimberley Process is scheduled to meet in Tel Aviv on June 21 for its intercessional meeting at which the moratorium placed on diamonds mined at Zimbabwe’s Marange fields is expected to be the focus, internet-based news agency reported on Sunday. Reuters/Business Day