ZIMBABWE's victory at the recent Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) plenary in Washington DC to re-admit it as a full member unencumbered with external monitoring in its diamond-extraction and trading elevates the revolutionary party, Zanu PF, to a worldwide recognized economic independent institution standing as an equal.
How is that so?
The tumultuous arguments raised by USA, Britain, Canada, and EU over the diamond mining operations in Marange by Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and its various partners leading to the suspension of Zimbabwe’s KPCS membership were motivated by these Western powers’ dislike for the Zanu PF-controlled ministry superintending over the world’s biggest diamond find.
According to the report submitted by the KPCS’s Working Group of Diamond Experts, an elitist committee, to the Kinshasa 2011 plenary, Marange holds 30% of the world’s diamonds and by far the most potent landscape in the world in terms of its mineralogy.
The West could not stomach that Mugabe and his party, whom they had tried and failed to put on United Nations Security Council sanctions, was now in charge of such tremendous wealth. By extension, they were going to consume these diamonds.
On June 13, 2000, Chester Crocker, the former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, had this to say during US Senate hearings on the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act.
“To separate the Zimbabwean people from Zanu PF, we are going to have to make their economy scream, and I hope you, senators, have the stomach for what you have to do.
“So if we were to decide to try and work for change in power in Zimbabwe, I would hope that we would have the wisdom to be discrete, to be low-key and to avoid giving those in power there the excuse that foreigners are out to get them.”
Subsequent to this event, Canada, EU and Australia all came up with various but lethal cocktail of “restrictive measures” against Mugabe and his close allies in response to “massive human rights abuse.”
When ZMDC moved into Marange to start mining operations, the situation in that area prior to that was least described as organized chaos.
Before thousands of people invaded Marange, De Beers had for the past 15 years been prospecting in that area and shipping over 100 000 metric tons of ore to South Africa for “lab testing”. No results of these tests were submitted back to the Mines Ministry as required by law.
De Beers sold the claim to an Australian company, African Consolidated Resources, whose Chief Executive, Andrew Noel Cranswick, was declared bankrupt in Australia.
The Government cancelled the ACR claim and immediately after that the whole area was invaded by illegal miners commonly known as Magweja. Obert Mpofu, Zimbabwe’s Mines Minister contended at the Victoria Falls November 2012 Diamond Conference that illegal panners were signaled into the Marange Diamond fields by ACR soon after government nullified its claim.
It’s important to mention that at that time Kimberly Process and its Civic Society did not raise any objections to these opaque operations which saw millions of carats smuggled out of Zimbabwe by unknown buyers who included terrorist groups.
Farai Maguwu, a self-proclaimed human rights defender, produced a damning report about Marange soon after security agents started to move away 40,000 illegal panners in order to pave way for formal mining activities by ZMDC.
The report was headlined by many major news outlets in the world. Immediately, KP suspended Zimbabwe’s membership. A lengthy and laborious joint work plan was put in place in Swapkopmund to ‘sanitize’ the Marange diamond activities. Some of the issues KP involved itself with at that time were outside of its mandate.
When the United Nations established KPCS, it gave it the mandate to eradicate blood diamonds. The UN went further to define blood diamonds as “diamonds used by rebel movements to unseat legitimate elected government”. At that point in time, the aim was to stop Jonas Malheiro Savimbi of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and Foday Saybana Sankoh of Revolutionary United Front of Liberia who had their military armaments bankrolled by diamonds.
So, by any measure, the Marange diamonds could not fit the blood diamond definition.
However, the West led by Canada made very insipid but exasperating arguments citing human rights violations, militarization of the Marange fields, transparency and many others. Mpofu argued back and told the Israel KP 2010 Plenary that the KP was erring.
“Mr. Chairman, may it be put on record that whilst Zimbabwe is keen to comply, the issues being raised here by our former colonizers are not provided for in the KP statutes.
“Further, we aver that there is no rebel movement in Zimbabwe and the legitimate elected Mugabe government recognized by all countries in this plenary has assigned me to come here and represent it. To regard our diamonds as such is a travesty of justice and is disfiguring the jurisprudence of this organization,” Mpofu said.
But the West remained truculent with Canada remaining obdurate. However, Mpofu’s message struck many African countries in the KP. Soon after the plenary, African countries caucused on the Zimbabwe matter. With the exception of Botswana and Liberia, all other African countries agreed that the Zimbabwe issue was being politicized and similar treatment may befall other African countries.
Kennedy Hamutenya Namibia Diamond Commissioner said “It’s obvious, my fellow citizens of Africa, that the west are tightening screws on Zimbabwe for reasons best known to themselves and I personally regard that to be cruel and selfish. My brief I have from my Namibian authorities is to stand and fall by Zimbabwe’s quest to trade its diamonds freely.”
When the meeting ended, Mpofu had earned Zimbabwe tremendous support from South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, Ghana, Chad, Tanzania and others. This was the genesis of a grouping now called Africa Diamond Producers Association (ADPA).
After Zimbabwe successfully passed Abbey Chikane’s audit, the World Diamond Council started to warm up to the Zimbabwean cause. Addressing the KP2011 Kinshasa Plenary, Eli Ezakhof, WDC President said, “It is now apparent that, with regards to Marange, KP is now delving into matters that it has no capacity to deal with. I respectfully suggest that the current leadership of KP lead us back to ethos and values of KP founding statutes.”
It all became very apparent that USA, Canada, Australia and EU did not want to approve certification of Marange diamonds since they thought it was self-defeating in light of sanctions they had imposed on Mugabe.
When the USA sponsored a motion to “reform” the definition of blood diamonds, Zimbabwe rejected that and so did other African countries. For these reforms to pass, America needed Zimbabwe’s vote because the KP statutes direct that all decisions must be made by full consensus of all members.
The climb-down by these Western countries in the KP was caused by the waning support of the Movement of Democratic Change formations and the increase in Zanu PF popularity. This shift of attitude is calculated to mend relations with Zanu PF ahead of the widely-anticipated Mugabe victory.
Mugabe and his Zanu PF have managed to convince the KP community that , contrary to charges made by the West, it is different from Savimbi and Sankoh. The Victoria Falls Diamond conference was a masterstroke as it made it easier for Zimbabwe to garner the rest of the KP support.
It is not often that a liberation movement can easily convince the world that the world super powers are wrong.
Tafadzwa Musarara is Executive Director for Resource Exploitation Watch. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org