Zimbabwe: Diamond Bling-Bling Comes to Victoria Falls

LONG accustomed to holiday-makers and tourists who wear khakis and shorts, the resort town of Victoria Falls was given a different treat as diamond traders, barons and magnates in pristine suits descended on the resort town for the two-day diamond conference held at the Elephant Hills Hotel this week.

In fact, staff at the Elephant Hills Hotel advised that they had reached full booking prior to the start of the conference -- signalling the large number of participants who descended on the resort town for the diamond indaba.

A manager at the hotel who requested anonymity said "Christmas had come early this year."

International designer suits appeared to be the unofficial dress code among delegates, as they not only sought to make lasting impressions with their looks, but perhaps covertly send a message of their taste for the finer things in life, probably courtesy of the diamond dollars.

Italian style suits, Paul Smith, Dolce & Gabbana were among some of the popular brands that topped the list.

The who's who in the diamond industry also lapped up to the show of power and wealth, walking into the conference room with large entourage of assistants and bodyguards, a sight which made delegates whisper among themselves.

Robert Mhlanga, the Mbada diamonds chairperson stole the show with his sharp dress sense and huge entourage.

Possibly the only person to "put him in his place" was President Robert Mugabe with his large escort and security detail and so was former South African president, Thabo Mbeki.

Outside the hotel, top-of-the range jeeps, Prados Land Cruisers and Mercedes Benz vehicles were competing for parking space as their affluent owners were busy making deals and lobbying for the green light to sell diamonds to the rest of the world.

Representatives from the mining companies in Chiadzwa, Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, Anjin and the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, made a plea to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme chairperson, Gilian Milovanovic to have the United States-imposed sanctions dropped.

Attorney-General, Johannes Tomana, who also attended the conference, said the renewed calls for the lifting of sanctions would bolster the country's case against the United States and the European Union .

Tomana has filed a suit, challenging the imposition of sanctions.

Elsewhere, other hoteliers not wrapped up in the diamond talk-show enjoyed the spin-offs that the conference had brought.

The Kingdom Hotel, Rainbow Hotel and Victoria Falls Hotel confirmed that they had registered increased room occupancy for the duration of the conference.

Locals appear to have also cashed-in on the buzz brought about by the conference, with James Sibanda, a taxi driver, saying he was knocking off close to midnight, as he had to ferry diamond traders to different places.

The multi-cultural diversity of the conference strongly indicated the global interest that the country's diamonds have generated, with numerous Indian, Arab, Western, Chinese, German and Jamaican diamond traders seen mingling with locals at cocktail parties and dinners thrown in the evenings after the day's events.

A report released by Partnership Africa Canada on Monday claiming at least US$2 billion worth of diamonds had been stolen from Marange went unnoticed, as diamond traders went about their business.

An official from Rainer Schumacher Trading Firm of Germany, which supplies American rappers 50 Cent and Rick Ross with jewellery had this to say: "We are here to make money and all we want are these Marange diamonds, all this politics is just affecting our business."

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