Is Zimbabwe Running Out the Clock?

One interesting aspect of the now two-month-old Zimbabwe/KP
stalemate is the calendar. In 2011, the chairmanship of the Kimberley Process
will pass from Israel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC will quite
likely be more sympathetic to Zimbabwe than Israel was. And I have talked to informed
sources that suspect that Zimbabwe is deliberately running out the clock to see
if it can get a better deal under the KP’s new leadership.

There is even the possibility that the new chairman could do
something dramatic, including (as has been floated) vacating last year’s “Joint
Work Plan,” meaning Zimbabwe will be free to export at will. The NGOs will be
furious, as will many KP members, since the chairman would be overriding the KP’s
Working Group on Monitoring (WGM), as well as the KP’s entire “consensus”
approach. Such a move would throw the KP into a serious crisis, and is probably a long shot. But I’ve talked to people who are
worried that it’s possible.   

Meanwhile the two sides are still talking. The big sticking
point is apparently the mechanism that could halt Marange exports in the
future. Under the plan drafted in Brussels, if two members of the WGM discover
a problem in the area, future exports could be blocked. The question is who
those members are. Zimbabwe doesn’t want the provision to allow only North
American representatives to object, since Canada and the U.S. tend to work as
an anti-Zimbabwe bloc. It wants governments from other regions, particularly
Africa, to be involved. All this seems like a minor point, but it is apparently
holding up an agreement.

World Diamond Council chairman Eli Izhakoff told me today he
was optimistic about an eventual resolution to the stalemate: “I believe that, given some time,
differences can be narrowed. Hopefully emotions will calm down on both sides.
Like everything in life, this will take time.”

One positive note: While many in the industry remain
sympathetic to Zimbabwe’s position, the trade has, for the most part, done an
admirable job of closing ranks behind the KP, as evidenced by the recent banishment
of an Israeli dealer who allegedly tried to smuggle Zim diamonds without a KP certificate.  The incident shows that selling goods outside the KP may not be as easy as Zimbabwe hopes.

JCK News Director