The government of Zimbabwe has suspended the sale of rough diamonds to local cutters and polishers who have been accused of trading the stones for short-term gains.
Mines Ministry Permanent Secretary Thankful Musukutwa confirmed sales to all 10 firms in the national diamond cutting and polishing sector were suspended.
The move angered the Affirmative Action Group, whose members form the core group of diamond polishers. The group signed an agreement last year with Indian dealers under which Zimbabweans went to India to learn the cutting and polishing trade.
The Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe started selling rough stones to local companies in December, but the relationship has soured with the government charging that some artisans are not adding value but trading diamonds for immediate profit.
Affirmative Action Group President Supa Mandiwanzira, who signed the deal with India on behalf of the fledgling Zimbabwean diamond processing industry, criticized the blanket suspension of sales saying that not all participants had engaged in illicit trades.
Kimberley Process local focal point member Dewa Mavhinga of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said all diamond sales should be suspended until there is more transparency as to how rough diamonds from Marange are being mined and sold.
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu last month announced an investigation into the trade and warned those found guilty would lose their licenses. "Inspections are going on although this time they were triggered by misconduct of some players, whom we are weeding out. Licensing will resume after the exercise," Mpofu said at that time.