Zimbabwe Sets Diamond Sale For This Week

“The launch of the sales will be made on Wednesday…” Mines minister Obert Mpofu told AFP, last week. “This is really good news for the country.”

The sale comes as the issue of “blood diamonds” has come under a global spotlight following supermodel Naomi Campbell’s testimony last week at the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

Taylor is charged with murder, rape and enslavement for his alleged role in the 1991-2001 civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone that claimed some 120,000 lives — a conflict fueled by diamonds.

The Kimberley Process, created just after the war to ensure that diamonds are “conflict-free”, had barred Zimbabwe from selling the gems after its investigators found that soldiers had beaten civilians to force them to mine the precious stones.

But Kimberley decided last month to allow Zimbabwe two diamond sales, saying the country had met basic human rights requirements. Zimbabwe has 4.5 million carats in stock, which it had been unable to sell because of the ban.

Kimberley monitor Abbey Chikane was expected to arrive in Harare to supervise the sale.

Mining is Zimbabwe’s main foreign currency earner, and Mugabe claims the Marange fields could eventually account for a quarter of global output.

Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, said recently that the diamonds should benefit the entire country.

“Diamonds should not be pocketed by some individuals,” Mugabe said.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti told parliament last month that the Treasury could not account for any of the 30 million dollars in Marange diamonds sold last year before the Kimberley ban took effect.