The two main partners in Zimbabwe's often-fractious unity government on Friday endorsed the deal struck late this week in St. Petersburg, Russia, between the Kimberly Process and Harare, providing for the export sale of diamonds from the troubled Marange field under strict Kimberly monitoring and supervision.
Leading Kimberly Process members cut the deal with Mines Minister Obert Mpofu after two days of intense talks.
The compromise cleared the way for Zimbabwe to earn much-needed revenues from rough diamonds, and relieved tensions among Kimberly Process members over whether the organization needed to reconsider its traditional role of barring trade in so-called conflict diamonds fueling rebellions in places like Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Some feared diamond revenues would strengthen the hand of President Robert Mugabe's former ruling ZANU-PF party in the unity government formed in early 2009 after abortive national elections in 2008.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said funds from gems would revive the feeble economy. Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said the MDC is pleased with the compromise - but wants sales closely monitored so Zimbabweans are not short-changed.
Human rights lawyer Tinoziva Bere said pressure must be kept on the Harare government to ensure that human rights and other issues in Marange are comprehensively addressed.
Sources said the agreement calls for continued progress on items in a joint work plan drafted at a Kimberly Process meeting in Namibia last year, including gradual demilitarization of the zone, identification of small-scale miners and the development of licensing systems, as well as the establishment of a system for marketing diamonds.
The plan called on Harare to tighten border controls and cross-border cooperation with Mozambique with a view to curbing smuggling and illicit trade in diamonds from the Marange alluvial field.
A follow up Kimberly review mission is contemplated by early August. Sources said Kimberly monitor Abbey Chikane, harshly criticized for his role in the arrest of human rights activist Farai Maguwu, will continue in that position, but will be seconded by a civil society technical adviser yet to be designated.
Africa Canada Partnership Executive Director Alan Martin says the deal is so stringent that it does not give ZANU-PF officials alleged to be looting the diamond resource room to continue operating without detection.