The Latest Zimbabwe/KP Mess

The controversy over Zimbabwe’s non-suspension from the Kimberley Process is refusing to die.

Some background: Last year, the KP declined to suspend Zimbabwe, even after reports of human rights abuses in the Marange region. The KP opted instead for an “action plan” to bring Zimbabwe into KP compliance (I posted the plan here.) While the “action plan” had merit, what was depressing was the precedent this non-suspension set. The diamonds from Marange were clearly “blood diamonds.” And yet the KP was unable to cut them off from the general stream of commerce, mostly due to political pressure from Zimbabwe’s neighbors.

Last week, things got even messier. The “action plan” required Zimbabwe to not export any diamonds from Marange unless approved by a KP monitor. (That person has not been appointed yet.) So when Zimbabwe announced that Marange diamonds would be sold in an auction, it seemed a clear violation of the plan.

There was predictable outcry over this, and days after it was announced, Zimbabwe called the auction off. If it had occured, it’s unclear what would have happened, but the KP may have had to take emergency action to suspend Zimbabwe.  Even so, the whole chain of events shows, in the words of Global Witness, that “Zimbabwe’s commitment to conflict diamonds scheme [is] still in doubt.”

And there is reason to still doubt it.  Take this quote from the Zimbabwe Times:

Addressing journalists, the Ministry of Mines permanent secretary, Thankful Mufukutwa said the sale did not take place because Mbada Diamonds had breached procedures.

“They will have to start the whole process if they want to sell the diamonds,” he said.

“They have to do it quietly without making announcements in the press as it is a sensitive subject.”

In other words, it is okay to breach KP procedures, as long as it’s kept quiet. If this quote was accurately reported, it should put everyone in the KP on notice to be extra-mindful about what is going on in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, a related issue is how the KP will treat Mozambique, which even the government there acknowledges has become a major “transit point” for illicitly mined Marange rough. Mozambique is not a KP member.

JCK News Director