INTERNATIONAL civic organisations have demanded the immediate suspension of all locally extracted diamonds from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) after citing a government crackdown that has reportedly claimed the lives of at least 50 illegal diamond diggers at Chiadzwa, Manicaland.
The Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, which comprises civic organisations fighting against illegal diamond trade, last week piled pressure on the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) to impose a blanket suspension on Zimbabwe’s rough diamonds.
This comes amid reports of a bloody crackdown on the illegal diamond miners by a joint operation of the police, army and secret agents codenamed Operation Hakudzokwi.
In a damning statement, the KP Coalition claimed that the crackdown was meant to prop up President Robert Mugabe’s administration against the backdrop of a worsening economic and humanitarian situation.
“Non-governmental organisations, concerned about the unending flow of conflict diamonds, call upon the Kimberley Process and its member states to act immediately,” read the statement.
“First the Kimberley Process must suspend Zimbabwe from participating in the certification scheme. A suspension of shipments will deprive legitimate producers in Zimbabwe of immediate revenue, but it will not stop them from mining and stockpiling diamonds against the day when Zimbabwe has been given a clean bill of health.”
If this action is effected, mines such as Dorowa and the government owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation that has concessions in Chiadzwa, would suffer most.
The coalition also demanded that the KPCS issue what it termed a “clear and unequivocal” statement criticising the government on the alleged human rights abuses.
“The Kimberley Process must take a stand against the harnessing of diamonds for the systematic abuses by a pariah regime,” said Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness, a member of the KP Civil Society Coalition. “We can no longer assume that Zimbabwe has the ability or ethical standards needed to control its diamonds in ways that conform to the principles espoused by the Kimberley Process.”
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was introduced by the United Nations in 2003 to certify the origin of rough diamonds from sources, which are free of conflict and human rights violations. It is against the trading of what the KP calls “blood diamonds”.
According to lawyers, the scheme is “soft law” and as such was not legally binding on the participating countries.
The lawyers said due to its status, there can be no legal consequences for the violation of the recommendations within the scheme.
The diamonds could not be adversely possessed because they do not meet KPCS requirements.
The coalition also appealed to the conflict diamond scheme to revoke Zimbabwe’s participation in international trade of the precious mineral after citing Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono’s utterances suggesting rampant smuggling of the gems at the country’s borders.
In September, Gono claimed that at least US$1,2 billion worth of diamonds were being lost each year through smuggling.
This, according to KPCS, is against trading requirements, which entail shipment of diamonds in a tamper resistant container that is accompanied by a government-validated Kimberley Process Certificate.
Ian Smillie of Partnership Africa lobbied the certification to suspend the controversial gems on allegations of indiscriminate “extra-judicial killing” by the government.
Efforts to get comment from the Minister of Mines and Mineral Development Amos Midzi were in vain at the time of going to print.
BYÂ BERNARD MPOFU