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Zimbabwe Out of Agenda as Diamond Meeting Ends

The KPCS says Zimbabwe was not discussed at the four-day meeting because there was no need to do so.
The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme’s four-day plenary meeting came to a close in Johannesburg on Friday with no discussion on Zimbabwe.

The Civil Society Coalition had hoped reports on lack of accountability in the mining and selling of Zimbabwe diamonds would be on the spotlight. But outgoing chair Ambassador Welile Nhlapho of South Africa, who said the conference was a resounding success, noted that Zimbabwe’s compliance to KPCS systems were long finalised.

Nhlapho said key decisions made at the conference include maintaining the ban on diamond sales in the Central African Republic, assisting Ivory Coast to comply with the KPCS statues and strengthening of the organisation’s monitoring systems.

He said Zimbabwe was not discussed at the four-day meeting because there was no need to do so.

“We didn’t talk about Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is long off our agenda because for three years actually we were dealing with the situation in Zimbabwe which ended last year in Washington DC when we took a decision to free Zimbabwe to trade in diamonds,” he said.

Shamiso Mtisi, who also represented the Civil Society Coalition at the meeting, expressed disappointment on the meeting’s failure to agree on a broad definition of conflict diamonds to include accountability and abuses of communities in around the diamond mining areas.

Though Mtisi is disappointed that the issue of lack of transparency on diamonds mined in Zimbabwe was not discussed at the meeting, he said he is happy that most of the issues discussed also touched on what is happening in Zimbabwe.

“There were a number of issues there that concern Zimbabwe … transfer of cash purchases of diamonds through banking channels, issues of transparency and accountability and this also affects Zimbabwe where we have been saying the diamond money is not benefiting the people. We were also actually encouraging countries within the KP to respect the role of civil society and that includes Zimbabwe,” he said.

At the same time, Siphamandla Zondi, director of the Institute for Global Dialogue, an international relations think tank based in Pretoria, said although the civil society concerns around Zimbabwe were not discussed, diamond extraction and sales reporting mechanisms put in place by the KPCS will reveal the extent to which Zimbabwe is complying with the diamond watchdog’s regulations.

“The hope is that the yearly regular monitoring processes will pick where there are serious gaps in the transparency, accountability, reporting mechanisms with regards to what happens to the diamonds that are being mined in Zimbabwe and how they are shielded from being tainted by wrong politics and conflict,” said Zondi.

Zimbabwe Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa, who also expressed excitement at being part of the deliberations, said with Zimbabwe having been given a nod by KPCS, his ministry will now embark on a mineral assessment exercise to ascertain the value of minerals in the country and ensure that Zimbabwe fully benefits from its mineral wealth.

“When you ask Zimbabweans whether they are rich they will tell you that yes we are rich, but when you ask them how rich are you in platinum terms they will say we don’t know and that then becomes a responsibility for us in the Ministry of Mines to ensure that the nation knows how rich it is in platinum terms, how rich it is in gold terms, how rich we are in diamond terms,” said Chidhakwa.

The organisation’s next plenary meeting will be held in 2014 in China.