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Kimberley Process Members Urge Diamond Watchdog To Sharpen Zimbabwe Focus

Participants discussed Harare’s failure to fully implement a joint work plan agreed by Zimbabwe and the Kimberley Process in 2009 that was intended to address deficiencies in Marange field operations

A number of Kimberley Process members and civil society organizations associated with the diamond industry watchdog group met in Johannesburg on Wednesday and agreed that Kimberley must sharpen its focus on Zimbabwe’s troubled Marange diamond field.

They said the lack of progress on issues related to the production of Marange diamonds was due to politicization of the debate by the ZANU-PF side of the government.

Participants discussed Harare’s failure to fully implement a joint work plan Zimbabwe and the Kimberley Process agreed in 2009 during a meeting in Windhoek, Namibia, intended to address deficiencies in the operation of the field. They agreed to urge the Southern African Development Community to pressure Harare to improve management of the Marange resource so its diamonds do not contribute to conflict.

The Center for Research and Development in Mutare, Zimbabwe, co-hosted the meeting with the South African Institute of International Affairs and Witwatersrand University.

Center Director Farai Maguwu said participants were also worried by Harare’s failure to demilitarize the Marange zone as agreed in the 2009 Kimberley meeting.

Affirmative Action Group President Supa Mandiwanzira, a proponent of Harare's position that it should be allowed to sell Marange diamonds into the international marketplace as and when it wishes, said the meeting was positive in agreeing to depoliticize Marange.

Mandiwanzira had complained earlier that the organizers of the meeting tried to block his group's participation. He said some some non-governmental organizations had “started making unsubstantiated allegations of human rights abuses in Chiadzwa," an apparent reference to a Human Rights Watch report issued Tuesday in Johannesburg.

"Thankfully right thinking citizens of the world are no longer taking these Western-backed groups seriously as everyone, including the European Union, are now aware that the Marange diamonds are the most clean diamonds in the world when measured by the Kimberly Process's blood diamonds yardstick," Mandiwanzira declared.

Human Rights Watch, Partnership Africa Canada and other human rights groups as well as Zimbabwean critics of the government's Marange development process maintain that human rights violations continue in the diamond field in the form of mistreatment of the residents of the diamond-bearing area, and that there is a lack of transparency in the production, export and sale of diamonds and the eventual distribution of revenues.