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KPCS Holds 3-Day Meeting to Discuss Conflict Diamonds

(FILE) -- This Nov. 1, 2006 file photo shows miners digging for diamonds in Marange, eastern Zimbabwe.
The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) started a four-day meeting in Johannesburg on Tuesday to review its systems and strengthen its capacity to stop the use of diamonds in fuelling conflicts.

The newly-appointed Zimbabwean Minister of Mines, Walter Chidhakwa, said he is happy to be attending the meeting at a time when the country’s diamond mining activities have been certified by the KPCS. However, civil society organizations seem to hold a different view.

Delegates from civil society organisations, governments and the diamond industry throughout the world are meeting in South Africa to discuss strategies and possible improvements that will capacitate the KPCS and strengthen its efforts to stop the use of the so-called blood diamonds.

The KPCS was formed in South Africa in 2003 to fight the use of diamonds in fuelling conflicts. However, ten years later, the role of blood diamonds in aiding conflicts in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone, to mention but a few, still continues unabated.

Although there is no civil war in Zimbabwe, the discovery of diamonds in Marange a few years ago, raised a storm as allegations surfaced that local people were being abused and brutalized by politicians and army generals who were being accused of looting the diamonds.

Speaking at the official opening of the plenary meeting, Ambassador Welile Nhlapho, whose country South Africa is the outgoing chair of the KPCS, expressed hope that the delegates will identify the organisation’s short comings and strengthen its fight against conflict diamonds.

Through its certification of rough diamonds, in countries emerging from conflict, the KPCS can also continue to assist on post conflict, reconstruction and development of these countries. The challenge remains in maintaining the relevance of the scheme in cleaning up the industry and also in improving its effect on the livelihoods of people.

Mr. Chidhakwa said as a new minister in the mines portfolio, the four-day meeting will help him gain more understanding about the KPCS processes.

“I’m aware that we were on the spotlight for some time, and I’m aware that as a result of that we have done significant work to ensure that we comply with the Kimberly certification process, but I’m also hoping that as a country we can make contributions,” he said.

However, Shamiso Mtisi, a representative of the civil society coalition said although KPCS has certified Zimbabwe’s compliance with the organization’s benchmarks and given the country a green light to sell its diamonds, the country still has a long way to go.

“What is outstanding in Zimbabwe is the aspect around transparency and accountability, by transparency and accountability I mean, where the money is going, how much is being generated from the diamond mines, and also how much in terms of production is coming out of that. People would want the diamond money to be used for the benefit of the people so we need to make sure that the country benefits from the diamond sale,” said Mtisi.

But South African Minister of Minerals Suzan Shabangu disagreed.
“We have gone through the process as the Kimberly process and we have contributed in making sure that Zimbabwe becomes compliant so where we are, we are comfortable especially now that the European Union has also lifted sanctions against Zimbabwe,” said Shabangu.

China is expected to take over the KPCS chair when the meeting ends on Friday.