Zimbabwean Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu confirmed on Friday that a consignment of diamonds from the Marange field in the east of the country was sold recently despite the failure of a recent Kimberley Process meeting to give a green light to such sales.
Reports said US$160 million was raised in the sale of rough diamonds to Indian buyers after Kimberley Process monitor Abbey Chikane certified the stones in an action that was overruled by Kimberley Process Chairman Boaz Hirsch when the sale came to light.
Hirsch put Kimberley Process members on alert Thursday saying Chikane had certified Marange diamonds for export without approval by the organization as a whole.
Hirsch asked industry participants to immediately report to the body’s Working Group on Monitoring any consignments suspected to include diamonds from Marange.
He said no trade in Marange diamonds can take place until Zimbabwe has fulfilled its commitments under a work plan agreed at a meeting in Namibia in late 2009. The group authorized auctions under supervision at a meeting this year in Russia, and such sales were conducted in August and September. But no blanket approval was given.
Under the Kimberley work plan Zimbabwe committed itself to a number of reforms in the Marange field, including the phased withdrawal of military still in control there.
Mpofu said Hirsch did not have the authority to issue his statement this week, and said Zimbabwe will continue to sell its diamonds. He said the country would not attend a meeting of Kimberley stakeholders in Brussels next week focusing on Zimbabwe.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said that by selling the diamonds so soon after the failed Kimberley conference in Jerusalem, Harare has proven that it has always wanted to market outside the purview of Kimberley, even though its oversight was limited.