Friday, August 29, 2014 Local time: 01:15

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Kimberley Process In Turmoil After Chairman Clears Zimbabwe Diamond Sales

The US State Department has warned that it will publish the names of firms that receive Marange diamonds on a government website and will ask the US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control to scrutinize diamond transactions more closely

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Sandra Nyaira

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is in turmoil following the declaration by its chairman, Mathieu Yamba of the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying Zimbabwe is cleared to sell diamonds from the Marange field into the global marketplace.

There was no debate among Kimberly Process members before Yamba’s announcement, which has drawn opposition from the World Diamond Council and the governments of the United States, the European Union, Canada and Israel, which have warned off buyers.

In his directive authorizing Zimbabwe to resume export sales of diamonds from the highly controversial Marange field in the east of the country, Yamba said all unresolved issues concerning Marange would be addressed at a Kimberley meeting in November.

In the United States, Jewelers of America and the Diamond Manufacturers and Importers Association of America have urged members not to trade in diamonds from Marange. The groups say suppliers should provide additional written assurances beyond the World Diamond Council’s usual warranties statement that the diamonds they supply did not originate in Marange and were not obtained in violation of laws or sanctions.

The US State Department has warned that it will publish the names of firms that receive Marange diamonds on a government website and will ask the US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control to scrutinize diamond transactions more closely.

The Treasury office administers US sanctions targeting President Robert Mugabe and many other ZANU-PF officials. It has listed the Zimbabwe Minerals and Development Corporation, the state-run parent company of Marange Resources, for sanctions.

World Diamond Council President Eli Izhakoff told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that Yamba’s statement came as a surprise to many Kimberley members.

"While the World Diamond Council welcomes and applauds Mr. Yamba's efforts to bring an end to the apparent impasse that currently exists regarding the status of production and stocks from Marange, the WDC advises members of the international diamond industry to refrain from trading in and exporting goods from the region until the situation and the status of these goods becomes clearer," Izhakoff said.

"In the meantime, the WDC would like to assure all parties involved that it remains at their disposal to lend assistance and contribute to any initiative that will resolve outstanding issues, while protecting the credibility of the Kimberley Process."

Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said Zimbabwe doesn’t care about statements from those who seek to block international trade in Marange diamonds.

Mpofu said countries like Canada, Australia and Britain are hypocritical because their companies are currently benefiting from mining ventures in Zimbabwe.

"What makes us more worried is that the same countries are the major beneficiaries of our minerals," he said. "Canada has a big gold mining concern exploiting our gold on a daily basis. We've got the Australians exploiting our diamonds at Murowa plus even Zimplats is partly British and Australian."

Dismissing the so-called violence clause in a recent Kimberley agreement that would have cleared the way for Harare to market Marange diamonds, Mpofu said the clause was "nonsensical." The impasse over the clause led to Yamba's directive.

But Mpofu said Zimbabwe will remain a member of the Kimberley Process.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga, a member of the Kimberley Process local focal point for Zimbabwe, said that his panel is still reviewing Yamba’s directive but backs those urging world buyers to avoid Marange stones.

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