Zimbabwe’s state-controlled Herald newspaper Wednesday quoted Mines Minister Obert Mpofu as saying the Cabinet agreed Tuesday to proceed with the export sale of diamonds from the controversial Marange field whether or not such diamonds have been certified by the Kimberly Process.
Mpofu's statement to the Herald, a mouthpiece for his ZANU-PF party, followed the failure by the Kimberly Process to reach consensus on certification of Marange diamonds in a key meeting last week in Israel.
Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube of the Movement for Democratic Change formation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the Cabinet decision was unanimous – though he said he could not relate the exact wording of the diamond resolution.
Contradictory accounts came from the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, to the effect that its ministers insisted that diamonds should not be sold on the international black market, which would be the only outlet possible if Zimbabwe decided to export without the Kimberly stamp of legitimacy.
Mpofu told the Herald that the decision to proceed with the sale of diamonds was justified by the positive report on the Marange diamond field in Manicaland province issued by Kimberly monitor Abbey Chikane. That report said Zimbabwe had responded to most Kimberly Process demands for reforms made in late 2009.
But his report was overshadowed by the arrest early this month of Farai Maguwu, a Mutare-based civic activist and researcher on charges that he published false information about Marange that was injurious to national interests. It is alleged that Maguwu gave Chikane secret documents, which Chikane then handed over to Harare officials.
The Herald report quoted Mpofu as emphasizing that revenues from the diamonds would fuel the country’s economic recovery. But critics of the government’s policy in Marange say a clique of senior ZANU-PF officials and active and retired military officers has been managing the Marange resources for self-enrichment.
Beyond this, the rights to mine diamonds in the Marange field are a matter of litigation between Harare and London-listed African Consolidated Resources. The Supreme Court has ordered diamonds from Marange to be sequestered with the central bank pending a final decision in that case.
But Mpofu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the diamonds belong to Zimbabwe and will be exported by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe.
World Diamond Council President Eli Izhakoff, an influential Kimberly Process member, said world diamond buyers should continue to shun diamonds from the Marange alluvial field until such time as they are certified.
Political commentator Paul Rumema-Chimhosva observed that MDC ministers are in a difficult position regarding diamonds from Marange, given the country's desperate need to fund its economic recovery.
in the case of activist Maguwu, a Harare magistrate on Wednesday summoned the policeman leading investigations to explain why his inquiry has been taking so long, as correspondent Irwin Chifera reported from Harare.