President Robert Mugabe on Monday castigated western nations that he said imposed sanctions on Harare and were using the so-called targeted measures to stop Marange diamonds from being marketed competitively on the world market.
Addressing Zimbabwe’s inaugural diamond conference in Victoria Falls, Mr. Mugabe said Harare was in compliance with all Kimberley Process (KP) requirements in the extraction of the gems in Marange, adding that it is unfair that the country’s diamonds are being classified as tainted.
He promised delegates and the international community that a diamond law was in the offing as parliamentarians are set to discuss the proposed bill next week in Kariba "to further assure the global diamond industry that the government takes seriously good governance in the extraction and eventual trading of diamonds."
Mr. Mugabe told the conference, also attended by Kimberley Process chair, Ambassador Gillian Milavanovic of the United States, former South African President Thabo Mbeki and other top diamond experts, Zimbabwe’s diamonds should be allowed onto the international markets without conditions as mining firms have met KP standards.
"Diamonds from Zimbabwe must ... be allowed market space in order to trade competitively and fully benefit the nation," he said.
Mr. Mbeki told the conference that Africa should be allowed to benefit from her natural resources, adding that the West is wrong in criticizing President Mugabe’s land reform policies which saw white commercial farmers being booted out of farms to pave the way for blacks.
Chaim Even-Zohar, president of the Tel Aviv-based diamond consulting service Tacy Limited, told the conference that Zimbabwe is selling its diamonds to few takers at rock-bottom prices as most foreign buyers are shunning the country’s products.
Even-Zohar said Zimbabwe has the potential to contribute 8 to 10 percent of global gem production but is not benefiting fully as potential buyers are worried about trading with the country because "major companies are scared, (and) insurance companies are afraid" of the US Office of Foreign Assets Control, forcing the country to dispose of its gems at 25 percent less than their full value.
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu told VOA Studio 7 recently that the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control has been intercepting money raised from Zimbabwe’s diamond sales.
The conference coincided with a damning report released Monday by Canadian group Partnership Africa Canada that says over $2 billion worth of diamond revenues was stolen from the country since 2008.
The report says diamond proceeds have been enriching just a few, including senior Zanu-PF officials and military officers.
Mines Ministry Permanent Secretary Prince Mupazviriho told VOA the conference has been a success so far despite the damning report by PAC, which he dismissed as “baseless and totally false”, especially the claim that at least $2 billion worth of diamonds have been stolen from the Marange diamond fields.
Mupazviriho said the PAC was being sponsored by western nations that imposed sanctions on Harare and still bent on ensuring that the gems are not sold on the international markets.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Dewa Mavhinga said the conference would not produce anything positive for the country, adding that the PAC findings are not surprising.