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South Africa Hails Zimbabwe's Kimberly Process-Sanctioned Diamond Auction

Addressing a press conference in Pretoria Thursday, South African foreign ministry director general Ayanda Ntsaluba said his government stands by Kimberly monitor Abbey Chikane and hopes easing economic problems in Zimbabwe will help ease pressure on South Africa as living standards improve

South Africa on Thursday hailed this week's Kimberly Process-sanctioned auction of rough diamonds from Zimbabwe's troubled Marange field, saying revenues from the natural resource will help the country address its many economic challenges, reducing pressure on South Africa from mass emigration by impoverished Zimbabweans.

Addressing a news conference in Pretoria, South African Foreign Ministry Director General Ayanda Ntsaluba said his government stands by Zimbabwe Kimberly monitor Abbey Chikane, a South African, and hopes easing economic problems in Zimbabwe will help ease pressure on South Africa as living standards improve.

Chikane has come under fire from non-governmental organizations for what many considered a a lenient judgment as to whether Harare had complied with Kimberly standards, and for turning over documents he had received from a whistleblower to Zimbabwean authorities, resulting in the arrest of Farai Maguwu of Mutare.

Zimbabwe resumed legal international diamond sales with the high-profile auction which drew an immediate demand from disgruntled civil servants, in particular teachers, for a long-awaited pay increase.

Economists cautioned that the sale of 900,000 carats of diamonds for some US$72 million will not have an immediate impact on Zimbabwean living standards. Economist Eric Bloch said the money generated by diamond sales is far from what is needed by the country to rebuild and relaunch growth.

The sale was supervised by Kimberly Process officials while auditors from the international accounting firm Ernst & Young firm also assessed the value of the diamonds going under the hammer.

Economist Godfrey Kanyenze of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe said his organisation is working with others to draft legislation to give the country a larger share in gem revenues.

Elsewhere, a Kimberly Process review mission met with senior government officials and the Cabinet task force on Marange on Thursday to discuss what remains to be done for Zimbabwe to fully comply with Kimberly standards and a work plan set out in 2009. Unfinished business includes the demilitarization of the Marange field.

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, present at the meeting, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the Kimberly team voiced satisfaction with Harare's progress in meeting objectives.