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With Zimbabwe Cleared to Sell Marange Diamonds, Accountability a Key Issue

Independent Harare economist John Robertson said the lack of a robust government structure to account for Marange diamond revenues will ensure that funds continue to be diverted, suggesting Botswana as a model

Now that the Kimberley Process has given the green light for Zimbabwe to sell diamonds from its controversial Marange field on international markets, the question remains whether Harare's system can ensure gem proceeds go where they should.

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu bragged this week that Zimbabwe will now “unleash her worthiness” on international markets and will never need to seek donor aid again.

But skeptics note wide discrepancies between official revenue figures and independent estimates of how much should be generated by the rich Marange alluvial field.

Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations argued that the Kimberley deal reached this week in Kinshasa is bad for Kimberley and for ordinary Zimbabweans.

Research director Alan Martin of Partnership Africa Canada said NGOs have no faith in the diamond supply chain out of Marange and that black market sales will continue.

"The integrity of the entire clean diamond supply chain is on the line," said Martin.

"How can consumers buy a diamond this Christmas with any confidence that they are not buying a Marange diamond mined in unquestionable violence?" Martin demanded. "How can industry give any assurances that they will be able to separate these diamonds from the legitimate diamond supply chain?"

Global Witness researcher Mike Davies said in a discussion Thursday on LiveTalk, a call-in program of the VOA Zimbabwe Service, that the Kimberley votes in Kinshasa failed to address the risk of diamonds financing political violence in Zimbabwe.

VOA reporter Sandra Nyaira turned to independent Harare economist John Robertson and former Affirmative Action Group president Supa Mandiwanzira, who was involved in a plan to build Zimbabwe’s diamond industry, for perspective.

Robertson says the lack of a robust government structure to account for Marange revenues will ensure that funds continue to be diverted. He said Zimbabwe should look to neighboring Botswana for ideas on how to manage a diamond resource.

Mandiwanzira maintained there is sufficient transparency to how diamond revenues are handled, saying some problems were to be expected in a new industry.