Blood Diamonds


Members of the Kimberley Process diamond watchdog began talks in Jerusalem on Monday over whether to allow Zimbabwe to resume exports of the gemstone from its controversial Marange fields.

The organisation, which is meant to ensure diamonds are “conflict free,” suspended its certification of the Marange fields last year, over claims of forced labour and torture at the gem mines.

But it agreed in July to allow Zimbabwe to export two shipments of diamonds if Kimberley Process monitors were given access to the Marange fields.

“The Zimbabwe issue is still not resolved, hopefully they will reach a decision this time,” said Sharon Gefen, spokeswoman for the Israeli Diamond Industry, which is hosting the meeting in Jerusalem.

“Over the last month, they sent one new fact finding mission to see if everything was in accordance with the Kimberley Process, and they will present their findings this week,” she told AFP.

Ahead of the meeting, Human Rights Watch called on the organisation to ban all diamond exports from Zimbabwe “until the government makes clear progress in ending abuses and smuggling.”

The New York-based rights group said research carried out between July and September showed large parts of the Marange fields remained under the control of Zimbabwe’s military, which was smuggling diamonds and abusing local workers.

“The government made a lot of promises, but soldiers still control most diamond fields and are involved in illicit mining and smuggling,” HRW Africa director Rona Peligal said in a statement.

“Zimbabwe should mine its diamonds without relying on an abusive military that preys on the local population.”

The meeting, which brings together some 300 delegates from 75 countries is expected to announce a decision on Thursday afternoon.

(Source)

If you’re in the market for some diamond jewelry but not for forced labor or human rights violations, buyer beware. Zimbabwe recently auctioned off 900,000 karats of diamonds from it’s controversial Marange fields, where there have been reports of widespread forced labor and other human rights abuses. And the auction was supervised by a monitor for the Kimberley Process, the group tasked with preventing blood diamonds from entering the global market.

Zimbabwe, and especially the Marange region, has had serious issues with violence and labor abuses in the diamond industry for years. Forced labour is rampant, and workers have reported being forced to mine diamonds at gunpoint and guarded with armed soldiers while they worked. Those who refused to join the military syndicates that control 95% of the mines in the area were assaulted. In addition to the direct rights violations, the lost revenue from diamonds that are being illegally smuggled and traded denies the Zimbabwean people desperately needed funds to help rebuild their economy. Marange is full of the sorts of industry abuses the Kimberley Process was created to protect against and other abuses no body is tasked with controlling, like human trafficking.

Katy Glen over at the Human Rights blog recently wondered whether or not whether the Kimberley Process has failed in Zimbabwe. It certainly didn’t do a great job over the weekend, when it allowed between $30 and $54 million dollars of diamonds from mines with horrific human rights abuses to be auctioned off into the international market. It hasn’t done consumers who are looking for conflict-free diamonds that don’t support slavery, child labor, or environmental harm any good, as the Kimberley Process doesn’t consider those issues. And it hasn’t helped the people of Zimbabwe, who aren’t getting their fair share of diamond sales which are allowed to go through. Maybe the Kimberly Process hasn’t failed Zimbabwe. Maybe it’s just failed.

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Senior police officers are still heavily involved in the illegal sale of diamonds from the controversial Marange fields in eastern Zimbabwe despite recent vehement denials by Home Affairs co-minister Kembo Mohadi.

In one bizarre case, a police officer was found conducting the roaring trade from his house at the Fife Avenue police station.

The discovery came as international diamond trade bodies and both sides of the inclusive government were bent on sweeping the abuses under the carpet to allow Zimbabwe to offload the Marange ‘blood diamonds’ onto an unsuspecting global market.

Rights groups and consumer watchdogs last Friday vowed to take their fight to the stores.

The radical consumer rights group Consumer Action said it would mount a two-day protest outside diamond stores, including blocking entrances to Tiffany’s in New York and other shops in several other cities in early August, timed to coincide with the Kimberly Process monitor’s visit to Zimbabwe, where he is expected to certify the country’s controversial Marange stones for international sale.

Underworld figures in the illegal diamond trade named several top cops as the culprits in the thriving rackets.

Investigations by this newspaper revealed that the well-organised gangs included illegal diamond miners displaced from the Marange fields in the widely-condemned, brutal 2008 army-led Operation Hakudzokwi (No Return) in which security forces allegedly murdered up to 200 illegal miners, according to Human Rights Watch.

Finding the illegal diamond sellers in Harare was not difficult. A contact led this reporter to the Ximex Mall, a centre for illegal deals of all kinds. Among a band of youth dressed in expensive American designer clothes and fiddling with mobile phones was a youth who called himself Grey.

Without hesitation, Grey promised he could find any amount of diamonds for the ‘foreign buyers’ we claimed to represent.

“You don’t have to be afraid of being arrested. I get my stones from senior police officers who can even help you to get them across the border to South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Congo or even Dubai,” Grey said.

Licking ice-cream and flashing the gold chains on his neck and arms, Grey revealed that he had been one of the illegal miners at Chiadzwa when the army descended on the area in 2008 as part of Hakudzokwi. The youth said two of his friends were tear-gassed in a shaft and buried alive. Those who tried to run to mountains for safety were strafed with bullets from helicopter gunships while also being tear-gassed and pursued by horses and dogs on the ground, the gangster revealed.

“It was total war. I was injured and arrested. They tortured us for days but I was lucky because one of the policemen was from my home area. He told me I should come to Harare and act as his agent. That is why I am here. My job is to find customers for him and his friends. Most of the people here are not selling cell phones as they claim. They are pushing ‘ngoda’ (diamonds),” Grey said, before leading us to Fife Avenue police residence for senior officers.

Although police armed with AK 47s manned the entrance and required all visitors to sign a register, Grey just greeted the cops and made some jokes at which the guards laughed before they ushered us in. The youth appeared well-known to them.

The youth led this reporter to the house of Teddy Zhou, a police chief inspector who, last year, got arrested after illegal diamond dealers in Mutare accused him of robbing them of gemstones and cash. The case was dropped earlier this year after the complainants alleged that Zhou and his police associates threatened to arrest them if they pursued the matter.

Grey pointed out a new top of the range BMW in the car park, which he claimed Zhou had bought with diamond money, along with a Mercedes Benz which he had recently sold. Zhou was not at home and Grey’s disappointment was evident. “I’ve just lost a lot of money,” he muttered.

Other sources in Mutare revealed that a named senior police officer from the minerals and border control unit was always in the area collecting stones from the ongoing illegal activities at Marange. The same officer is said to have led a police raid on the Bluff Hill, Harare house of Chief Chiadzwa searching for diamonds.

The continued involvement of security forces in illegal mining, smuggling and human rights abuses is one of the main reasons Zimbabwe has been barred from selling gemstones from Marange. Global Witness recently revealed that the activities were benefitting senior security officials and ZANU PF members.

The Centre for Research and Development’s director, Farai Maguwu was detained for over a month and is still facing charges after exposing the abuses, which include forced labour of villagers in the diamond fields and gang rapes of women by soldiers and police.
The Zimbabwe Youth for Transparency recently named vice president Joce Mujuru as one of those senior officials continuing with illegal mining in the area.

Another point of contention is that mines Minister Obert Mpofu formed and licensed several companies to mine the Marange diamonds in murky circumstances, ensuring that the military continued to play a major role.

There was a stunned silence on the ZANU PF benches in parliament last Wednesday when Finance minister Tendai Biti announced that the law would be amended to ensure that diamond rights reverted to the state. Biti also hinted that an out of court settlement would be pursued with African Consolidated Resources, the original owners of the rights to the Marange diamonds. ACR was dispossessed by Mpofu.

(Source)

Zimbabwe’s Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) reported selling and exporting 412,086 carats of diamonds valued at $23.45 million between January and May 2010. State-run newspaper The Herald reported on the figures and stated that MMCZ estimated Chiadzwa diamond stock at  about 400,000 carats and worth $1.7 billion.

MMCZ valued all minerals exports during the first five months of 2010 at about $403 million compared with $191.9 million one year earlier. Platinum group metals that were exported totalled $175.76 million.

(Source)

The Supreme Court has ordered the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe to cease operations on diamond mining claims formerly owned by African Consolidated Resources in Chiadzwa pending finalisation of the ownership wrangle.

This means the two firms exploiting the diamond fields should also stop, but retain the right to remain on the sites pending a solution.

In the full judgment explaining a Supreme Court order handed down on January 25, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku emphasised that 129400 carats of diamonds seized from ACR in 2007, when Government cancelled their permits, should be kept at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

He said a letter earlier written by the Registrar of the Supreme Court informing the concerned parties of the court’s intention to give reasons for the order of January 25 should not be misinterpreted as reversing the order.

The Chief Justice said if anyone had removed the diamonds from the central bank, that would be deemed unlawful and contemptuous of the highest court in the land.

“The balance of convenience favours the applicants (ZMDC and MMCZ) remaining on the site of the claims pending appeal, but they must cease all mining activities and it is so ordered,” said Chief Justice Chidyausiku in the judgment made available yesterday.

“Allowing the applicants to continue mining has the potential of causing irreparable damage to the respondents should the appeal fail.

“The diamonds are to be kept at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe until the finalisation of the appeal.

“To interpret the letter of the Registrar to the parties as reversing my very clear order of January 25, 2010 that the diamonds are to be kept at the Reserve Bank pending appeal is the height of mischief.

“If anyone has removed the diamonds from the Reserve Bank, he has done so unlawfully and in contempt of the order of this court.

“The diamonds must be returned to RBZ immediately in order to purge the contempt. Failure to do so should attract serious consequences,” he added.

ACR and its five subsidiaries – Canape, Dashaloo, Heavy Stuff, Possession and Olebile Investments – owned the claims until 2006 when Government cancelled their permit.

Through their lawyer, Mr Jonathan Samkange of Venturas and Samkange, ACR successfully challenged the cancellation in the High Court and Justice Charles Hungwe validated it.

He ordered the seized diamonds to be returned to ACR.

But ZMDC and MMCZ appealed against the judgement in the Supreme Court. That appeal is yet to be determined.

Chief Justice Chidyausiku’s order instead directed the diamonds to be taken to the RBZ as a neutral and secure place, pending finalisation of the matter.

Different interpretations were drawn from the January 25 order with some parties seeking to evict the firms that were on the disputed claims while others suggested the Registrar’s letter meant the Chief Justice had completely set aside the High Court order.

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Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has threatened to sell diamonds from a field where the military is suspected of using forced labour.

The Kimberley Process has given Zimbabwe until June to rectify alleged military abuses against civilians at the eastern Marange diamond fields.

But Mugabe threatened to sell the diamonds without the watchdog’s permission.

“We are trying to play it their own way, that is following the KP, but we can do it otherwise,” Mugabe told reporters in Harare. “We can sell our own diamonds elsewhere.”

(Source)

Unending ownership disputes with the efforts international advocacy groups against so-called “conflict diamonds” may yet undermine Finance Minister, Tendai Biti’s hopes of using revenues from the controversial Marange diamond fields to boost the country’s economic development.

When announcing the Government’s new economic blue-print, Minister Biti said the formalisation mining arrangements at the Chiadzwa diamond fields near the Eastern Border city of Mutare, should benefit the country and send positive signals to international investors over the credibility of the government’s mining policies.

The Zimbabwe government recently moved to end chaotic informal exploitation of the diamond fields by facilitating joint ventures between the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and two private companies.

However another company with prior claims to the fields, African Consolidated Resources (ACR) immediately sought relief in the courts precipitating a series of applications and counter applications between it and the joint venture partners which remain unresolved.

And in a move whose effect could only be to add to the legal disputes, the Government’s mining commissioner recently indicated that he intended to cancel the claims of ACR and other companies in the area with effect from the 25th of this month because they “were improperly pegged and registered on land that had been reserved against prospecting and pegging”.

However ACR and other affected companies can appeal the decision to the Minister of Mines and Mining Development and, failing that, take the matter to the High Court.

Again, as if this were not enough legal trouble, local inhabitants targeted for relocation by the Government to make way for the mining operations are also in the court seeking an order to halt their removal until they are properly and adequately compensated for their losses.

Meanwhile, diamond traders, human rights organisations and other advocacy groups continue to campaign for a ban on Zimbabwe diamond exports over allegations of rights abuses.

Ingle & Rhode, the UK‘s principal retailer of ethical jewellery and custom engagement rings produced using “conflict-free” diamonds and “fair trade gold”, became the latest firm to call for a ban on Zimbabwean diamond exports.

“Continuing to allow exports of Zimbabwean diamonds in such circumstances would make a mockery of the Kimberley Process – which was established in 2003 to assure consumers that the diamonds they were purchasing were not funding conflicts or human rights abuses – that is meant to avoid just such practices from occurring,” the company said in a press statement.

(Source)

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