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Kimberley Process Members Said Divided Over Zimbabwe Compliance Ahead of Key Meeting

Diamond polishers and African delegates have dismissed civil society reports charging continued abuses and smuggling in Marange as well as obstruction by security forces, and want Zimbabwe to be given free reign sell diamonds

Members of a Kimberley Process review mission to Zimbabwe are said to be divided on the question of compliance by Harare ahead of a November meeting in Israel of the monitoring group. Sources say members ranging from diamond polishers to civil society groups to government delegates disagree on what should be in the report.

Polishers and most African delegates have dismissed civil society reports charging continued abuses and smuggling in the Marange alluvial diamond field of eastern Zimbabwe, and want the Harare government to be given free rein to sell its diamonds into the international market. At present Marange diamond auctions are held under close supervision.

Some Kimberley Process review team members are said to have complained they were prevented from obtaining a clear picture of the situation in Marange due to close surveillance and interference by state security agents. The team, led by Liberian Kpandel Fayia, is said to have identified many instances of failed compliance with Kimberley standards.

The team also expressed concern at what it described as a large Chinese venture in Marange in addition to Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Mining, which the mission says were found to be in compliance. The Chinese operation by a company called Anjin is said to be much bigger than both Canadile Diamonds and Mbada Mining.

Most members of the Kimberley review team are said to desire a show of good faith by the Zimbabwean government in negotiations with the watchdog group if it is to allow Harare to continue auctioning diamonds.

Deputy Mines Minister Gift Chimanikire confirmed that Chinese company Anjin is working in Marange, but dismissed reports that the operation is not in compliance with Kimberley standards. Chimanikire said human abuses are a thing of the past where the diamond-mining operations in Marange district, Manicaland province, are concerned.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga said civic groups are worried the Kimberley Process may end up allowing Harare to continue to sell diamonds despite its failure to fully comply with standards.

Meanwhile, the government says it it will bring charges against London-listed African Consolidated Resources following a recent High Court ruling saying the company fraudulently acquired rights to mine diamonds in Marange. Attorney General Johannes Tomana confirmed that the state is moving to prosecute ACR.

But ACR Chief Executive Officer Andrew Cranswick said his firm did nothing wrong and adds that the Supreme Court ruling has been stayed by his firm’s appeal. The High Court judge in the case abruptly reversed an earlier decision in favor of the London-traded company which held mining concessions in Marange prior to 2006.

Elsewhere, the International Bar Association and a group of eminent retired judges are reviewing Justice Charles Hungwe's ruling in which he rescinded his earlier decision on ACR's Chiadzwa claims. The ruling last month rescinded a September 2009 High Court judgment that had confirmed the ACR's title to its diamond claims at Marange.

Sources said the judge was uncomfortable when he read his ruling recently, making mistakes and was reading from a piece of paper after arriving late at the courts late, which those familiar with his habits said was unusual.

Sources added that the report of court proceedings from the stenographer is different from the ruling Hungwe sent to ACR, the state and other parties, raising questions as to whether he was forced to read the ruling.

After Hungwe's about-face, the Mines Ministry and other parties quickly withdrew their appeal of his September 2009 judgment. Cranswick said Monday that the ministry's withdrawal coupled with ACR's rescission appeal has the effect that the original judgment upholding ACR's rights in the field is now back in force.

In its own appeal, ACR is challenging Hungwe's reversal of his own ruling. He cited alleged new evidence showing that ACR had fraudulently acquired mining rights because its operating subsidiaries were unregistered at the time.