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Kimberley Process Overrules Zimbabwe Monitor on Sale of Marange Gems

Kimberley Process Chairman Boaz Hirsch said in a statement that because KP members had not achieved consensus on Marange diamond sales, the group's Zimbabwe monitor should not have issued certification

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme on Thursday overruled its Zimbabwe monitor, Abbey Chikane of South Africa, who had approved the auction of millions of carats of diamonds from the controversial Marange field before the industry watchdog organization had achieved consensus on oversight of such transactions.

Kimberley Process Chairman Boaz Hirsch said in a statement issued Thursday that as no agreement had been reached on Zimbabwe’s sale of Marange diamonds at a recent Kimberley meeting in Jerusalem, no such transactions should take place.

Urging diamond industry members to be vigilant that they do not purchase “irregular” consignments of Marange diamonds, Hirsch said consultations continue among members of the Kimberley Process on the contentious issue of whether Zimbabwe should be given blanket approval to sell gems from the scandal-ridden Marange field.

The group will meet on Tuesday in Brussels to try to come to a decision on the question.

"It is of utmost importance that all participants remain vigilant and ensure that the terms of the Joint Work Plan [agreed in Namibia in late 2009] and [the recent] St. Petersburg agreement are respected [while] these consultations are ongoing," Hirsch said.

"As a consequence, no trade of Marange diamonds can currently take place under the Joint Work Plan until an agreement can be found," his statement continued.

The organization, consequently, asked industry membvers "to notify the [Working Group on Monitoring] chair in the event of receipt of an irregular shipment of Marange diamonds, until new arrangements are agreed that will allow continued implementation of the Joint Work Plan, including the supervised export mechanism."

Marange diamonds currently are sold only under close supervision by Kimberley officials following allegations of human rights abuses in the zone and alleged smuggling of rough stones out of the area which is still controlled by the Zimbabwean military.

Chikane’s decision to authorize diamond sales angered civil society representatives in the Kimberley organization who called the South African a “rogue monitor.”

Global Watch campaigner Annie Dunnebacke told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira in an interview that Chikane had overstepped his mandate.

“This is a crucial test of the diamond industry’s system of self-regulation," she said. "By refusing to buy these stones, the industry can reinforce the strength and credibility of the Kimberley Process, and chart a path to a satisfactory agreement on Marange diamonds.”

But Zimbabwean Deputy Mines Minister Gift Chimanikire said Chikane was acting within his mandate in the certification of Marange diamonds for sale, later overruled.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga, in Johannesburg, said Chikane’s move suggested he was unduly influenced by the shadowy cartel of military officials and ZANU-PF politicians said to control Marange development.