Saturday, April 21, 2012

(HERALD) Diamonds: US invites Mpofu to KPCS

Diamonds: US invites Mpofu to KPCS
Saturday, 21 April 2012 00:00
Hebert Zharare News Editor

THE United States government wants Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu and his delegation to attend the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme meeting set for June this year. Sources said the US government, through its Embassy in Harare, wrote the ministry inviting the Zimbabwean delegation to apply for visas.

Minister Mpofu and officials from parastatals that are supposed to attend the KP intercessional meeting are on US and European Union travel bans. “The US Embassy in Harare has written to the ministry inviting the Zimbabwean delegation to apply for the visas so that they attend the KP meeting in America.

“This is a crucial meeting and Zimbabwe as one of the major producers of diamonds should attend,” said the source.

US Embassy Acting Public Affairs Officer in Harare, Ms Jillian Bonnardeaux, yesterday confirmed the US wanted Minister Mpofu and his delegation to attend the KP meeting.

“The US government will expect the minister (Mpofu) and his delegation to attend the meeting. We are looking forward to welcoming the minister and his delegation in the United States,” she said.

Ms Bonnardeaux said the KP meeting was crucial and it was imperative for Zimbabwe to participate.

“The minister and other delegates have not yet applied for the visas . . . they have not been denied the visas yet. The meeting is very crucial and Zimbabwe needs to be represented,” she said.

Minister Mpofu could not be reached for comment yesterday as he was said to be out of the country.

Zimbabwe has faced challenges in marketing its diamonds and recently the US placed Anjin Investments, one of the largest diamond producing companies in the world based at Marange on sanctions.

The Government is however, pinning hope on diamonds revenue to raise money for civil servants’ salaries and pay other critical national requirements.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who is in Washington, on Thursday urged the US Government to re-engage Harare.

[Tendai Biti was in Washington addressing The Atlantic Council. - MrK]

He warned that illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West were hurting ordinary people and not President Mugabe.

He said Treasury had also expected a US$600 million boost this year from diamond sales but some of the companies operating in Marange were slapped with sanctions by the US.

Minister Biti said he had not received any money from diamond sales in the first quarter of the year.

He was addressing the Atlantic Council, a Washington think-tank and policy group, on progress made in Zimbabwe’s economic recovery and how to move the country out of its current political impasse.

“We have a shortfall of US$92 million. Part of the explanation is that there were no auction sales recently.

“But (the) question is, is there smuggling and stealing? People talk about that, I don’t have evidence of it so I am not excluding it or including it,” he said.

He said the West should ignore divisions in the inclusive Government and support efforts to help the country recover from a decade-long recession.

“Don’t look at politicians; don’t look at Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF, look at the ordinary people. The wait-and-see attitude is very retrogressive,” he said.

Minister Biti said Zimbabwe, which defaulted on its foreign obligations in 1999, was being crushed by a US$9,1 billion debt and needs US$14 billion for rehabilitation and development.

“This is part of the things we are battling with on this trip. How to deal with the issue of the crippling sovereign debt? There is no way that we are going to be able to generate these funds,” he said.

According to the latest world ranking, Zimbabwe is now the seventh largest diamond-producing country in the world and it produces about 25 percent of the world’s gems.

KP chairperson Mrs Gillian Milavanovic recently told journalists in a web chat that Zimbabwe, as part of the diamond-producing countries, was not supposed to be sidelined from intercessional meetings.

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