Friday, November 30, 2012

(NEWZIMBABWE) KP to withdraw Zimbabwe monitor

KP to withdraw Zimbabwe monitor
29/11/2012 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter

ZIMBABWE can sell its diamonds from Marange on the world market under relaxed conditions, the Kimberley Process will say on Friday.

A meeting of the global diamond industry watchdog’s Working Group on Monitoring chaired by the European Union will say that the four mines in Marange – Mbada Diamonds, Anjin, Marange Resources and the Diamond Mining Corporation – have complied with KP requirements.

The Marange diamonds were blacklisted by the KP over alleged human rights violations, but the ban was lifted after Zimbabwe agreed to hold diamond auctions only in the presence of an external KP monitor and implement reforms.

Now the Kimberley Process is ready to withdraw its monitors, Abel Chikane and Van Bockstael, while reverting to the standard peer review system applied to other KP members, completing Zimbabwe’s rehabilitation.

The decision also means new diamond operations in Marange will be licensed by Zimbabwe’s Mines Minister without being subjected to external scrutiny.

Zimbabwe is hailing the breakthrough which comes as South Africa – one of Zimbabwe’s most vocal supporters – is set to assume the KP chair from the United States of America.

Speaking from Washington DC on Thursday where the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is holding its plenary meeting, Tafadzwa Musarara, chairman of the Zimbabwean NGO Resources Exploitation Watch, said the KP move was a massive coup for Mines Minister Obert Mpofu.

"The decision to stop external monitoring of Marange diamond fields by KP is a big success for Mpofu and his team. It is intriguing to note that the EU, which is chairing this sub-committee, has now turned around to support the free trading of Zimbabwe’s diamonds,” Musarara said.

"It again seems that the United States wanted to have the Zimbabwe issue resolved during its chairmanship in order to get some credibility as it seemed obvious that incoming chair, South Africa, was going to deal with the matter in favour of Zimbabwe.”

The KP will also urge greater openness by the Zimbabwean government in the diamond trade, which Mpofu says is already being addressed under a new Bill.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti says there are heavy leakages from Marange, which he says has potential to form the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy if the extraction and sale of the diamonds is done transparently.

At a diamond conference in Victoria Falls earlier this month, President Robert Mugabe said the Diamond Policy and the Diamond Bill due to be passed in the new year would addressed industry-wide concerns.

But Mugabe also accused the United States of imposing sanctions on the diamond mining firms and threatening buyers from Asia. This had reduced the market for the Marange diamonds internationally and lowered their price.

“Given (our) commitment to upholding of international industry standards and requirements, it goes without saying that diamonds from Zimbabwe must, in the same spirit, be allowed market space in order to trade competitively and fully benefit the nation,” Mugabe said.

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