Wednesday, July 14, 2010

(NEWZIMBABWE) Mugabe vows to sell Chiadzwa diamonds

Mugabe vows to sell Chiadzwa diamonds
by Staff Reporter
13/07/2010 00:00:00

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe on Tuesday said there must be no doubt of Zimbabwe’s resolve to sell its diamonds “for the benefit of our people”, as the Kimberley Process met in St Petersburg, Russia, to discuss lifting a ban on gems from Chiadzwa, eastern Zimbabwe.

Opening Parliament, Mugabe declared the disputed Chiadzwa diamond fields in Marange district could supply 25 percent of the world's diamond demand and drive up the country’s economic recovery.

“Those ill-disposed to us have not given up on the use of absurd conditionalities and other dilatory tactics to block the sale of our diamonds. Let there be no doubt about our resolve to sell out diamonds for the benefit of our people,” Mugabe said.

The Kimberley Process, a global watchdog on trade in diamonds used to fuel conflict, has been divided over whether to lift a ban on Chiadzwa gems following a military operation to drive out 35,000 illegal miners in 2008. Rights groups claim 200 people were killed in the operation.

A KP monitor last month reported that Zimbabwe had met minimum conditions for the lifting of the ban. But at a meeting in Israel,the United States , Canada and Australia blocked the ban’s lifting – out of the 75 countries who are members of the KP which operates on consensus.

There were signs on Monday that diamond manufacturers are growingly impatient with delays in clearing Chiadzwa diamonds for export. The president of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA) questioned the sincerity of Britain, America and Australia’s objections.

“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?” Moti Ganz asked as he spoke at the World Diamond Congress which started Monday in St Petersburg.

He added: “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.”

Mugabe told MPs on Tuesday: “There are huge prospects for the diamond sector to emerge as the major driver of economic turnaround for the country still struggling to emerge from economic collapse in 2008.”

Finance Minister Tendai Biti says he will not propose a supplementary budget when he presents his Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review Statement on Wednesday, saying the future now hinges on the sale of diamonds from Chiadzwa.

Biti said revenue collections and donor support had fallen far short of expectations.

The 2010 national budget anticipated revenues of US$1,4 billion and donor support of US$810 million.

"The Kimberley Process must allow us to sell our diamonds ... It would be very unfortunate if the KP does not allow us to sell the diamonds because they will be punishing the people of Zimbabwe. We can't pay for electricity, we can't pay for civil servants and yet we are sitting on one of the finest find of alluvial diamonds in the history of mankind,” Biti said.

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