Wednesday, July 14, 2010

(NEWZIMBABWE) Diamond manufacturers slam Marange ban

Diamond manufacturers slam Marange ban
by Gilbert Nyambabvu
13/07/2010 00:00:00

THE President of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA) has slammed the Kimberly Process’ refusal to legitmise Marange diamonds saying the decision could only worsen the illegal mining and rights abuses alleged by those opposed to exportation of the stones.

IDMA chief Moti Ganz was speaking at the World Diamond Congress which started Monday in Moscow, Russia. Held every two years, the congress brings together the general assemblies of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) and the IDMA which represents manufacturers.

In his address, Ganz said it was a travesty that the views of three countries had been allowed to hold sway over those of 75 member governments during the Kimberly Process (KP) meeting held recently in Israel.

The KP failed to reach a consensus over Marange with Western countries and rights organisations insisting the ban on gems extracted from the area should remain in place despite the recommendations of a monitor appointed by the KP itself.

“To our great regret, out of 75 member governments of the Kimberly Process, three opposed legitimizing diamond exports from Zimbabwe.

“Since the decision-making method in the Kimberly Process is based on consensus, which gives any single country a veto, we reached an impasse,” Ganz said.

The IDMA president, who also heads the Isreal Diamond Manufactures Association, said Zimbabwe had since moved to regularise diamond mining in Marange adding the two companies licensed to operate in the area “established serious mines that meet all the stringent international standards regarding alluvial mining”.

Ganz also backed KP monitor for Zimbabwe Abbey Chikane saying there was no one better qualified to establish whether the country had complied with the body’s conditions.

“There is nobody more fitting than Abbey Chikane to say whether these companies meet the requirements or not, as he was the first Chairman of the Kimberly Process and one of the architects of the process,” he said.

The United States, Canada and Australia supported by western NGO’s led calls to keep the export ban on the Marange diamonds during the Israel meeting.

But Ganz said the consequent impasse would affect ordinary Zimbabweans as well as perpetuate the illegal mining and abuses these countries were alleging.

“Do the governments of the United States, Canada and Australia want to provide an opportunity for thousands of miners in Zimbabwe to make a legitimate living or do they want the illegal mining to continue.

“Do they want legal activity or do they want to encourage those who are corrupt. What do we want – Abbey Chikane or Al Qaeda?” Ganz asked.

He insisted that bringing Zimbabwe’s diamonds under the KP umbrella would help improve the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.

“We must move quickly to include Zimbabwe’s rough diamonds in the legitimate diamond pipeline because they are legitimate. We also need to do this to better the lives of people in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, also deplored the KP impasse saying it would hurt efforts to revive the country’s economy while hawkish elements in the coalition government – mainly from President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF government – have vowed to defy the export ban.

Meanwhile, those attending the Moscow meeting said there appeared to be an overwhelming consensus that the Kimberly Process should lift the ban on Marange although it remained unclear whether this would happen.

World Diamond Council president Eli Izhakoff put the chances of a deal being reached during the week at only 50 percent although observers said the release on bail of an activist jailed in Zimbabwe would significantly improve the odds.

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