Report from Zimbabwe

A “review mission” from the Kimberley Process recently returned from Zimbabwe, to investigate alleged problems in the country’s diamond industry. Among the people on the trip was Cecilia Gardner of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, representing the World Diamond Council.  Here is what she told me about the trip:


We spent five days. We had a very full agenda. We met with every sector involved in the diamond trade. We also met with civilian groups and local elected representatives in the areas around [the] Marange [diamond fields], which is where the allegations about substantial non-compliance arose. The government in Zimbabwe facilitated all our meetings and cooperated completely with our review mission.


We were able to see an awful lot on the ground. We intend to make some recommendations to the KP.


I can say we saw some specific instances of non-compliance [with the KP], although they were entirely connected to the area of Marange. We invited the government of Zimbabwe to take some proactive steps and basically gave them two to three weeks to take those steps. We want them to voluntarily suspend production and exports from Marange and to complete a plan to increase internal controls in the area. We also urged them to put into place an independent and multi-stakeholder body to work with the KP to create a plan to bring Marange into full compliance. We also thought they should be addressing the allegations of human rights issues and violations.


Regarding those allegations, which were the subject of a recent report from Human Rights Watch, Gardner said: “The KP team was not competent to address allegations of human rights violations. That is not our area of expertise. However we did learn something about what happened there and those findings will be included in the report. But I can’t address that at this point.”


A New York Times story today goes further, reporting that the team told the government it saw evidence of “horrific violations against civilians.”


The Times story strongly implies that the team will recommend the KP expel Zimbabwe, particularly if things don’t change. However, there is the issue of the Murowa mine in Zimbabwe, owned by Rio Tinto, which by all accounts (including those of the review team) is a legitimate, well-functioning mine.


Could the KP simply ban diamonds from one area? Gardner isn’t sure. “There is a wide range of potential actions we could take,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s possible to [make an exception for] Murowa. It’s something that we have to think about.”

JCK News Director