3 December 2012

Zimbabwe: 'Zim Gems Storm in a Teacup'

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Abbey Chikane, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) Monitor to Zimbabwe from 2009 to 2010, says the Marange question - which nearly ripped the global diamond watchdog apart over the past three years - was nothing but a "storm in a tea cup".

He gave it the name "isivunguvungu", a Ndebele word for storm.

"I think the storm is over (now)," Chikane said.

"It was a wild storm in a tea cup and it wrecked all of us. I am glad it's all over. The Kimberley Process can return to work (now)."

Acknowledging there were still some residual pockets of conflict, brewed by parties with conflict-plus issues in diamond trade, Chikane assured the industry that stability would be restored to the KPCS when South Africa takes over the chairmanship of body from the US next year.

The US has been accused of using its chairmanship to sustain the "storm", which officially ended in November 2011 when the last KPCS Plenary at its annual session held in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo unanimously cleared Marange diamonds as conflict-free based on successive KPCS Monitoring Reports.

"Ideally, the effectiveness of the Kimberley Process should be measured against its ability to ensure that participants and non-participating states do not slide back to armed conflicts either as a result of internal crisis or troubled regions and thus compromising legitimate diamond trade."

Chikane was appointed KP Monitor in Swakopmund, Namibia in November 2009 to superintend over the implementation of a Joint Work Plan agreed between Zimbabwe and the KPCS for the purpose of bringing Marange diamond mines to full compliance with KPCS minimum requirements.

The Joint Work Plan was developed in line with the Swakopmund Administration decision.

KPCS minimum requirements include, among other things, a record of accounting and a system of warranties, without which a KP certificate cannot be issued to rough diamonds.

The Joint Work Plan came on schedule as Mbada Diamonds and Canadile, now subsumed under Marange Resources, in August 2010 carried out Zimbabwe's first public auction of diamonds in Harare and Mutare under the supervision of Chikane. A second auction was held a month later.

By November 2011, all diamond mines in Marange were duly certified complaint.

Reflecting on the process, Mines and Mining Development Minister, Obert Mpofu, said the road to KPCS certification was arduous, lengthy and stressful, for the process irked everyone who was involved, from government and the mines involved to the KP Monitor and various other stakeholders.

"The local diamond sector has come of age and is now ready to claim its position on the global platform with Zimbabwe being one of the top five producers of rough diamonds by volume in the world," he said.

Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) chairperson, Juliet Machoba, said the final battle in unlocking Zimbabwe's full diamond potential was the freeing of the marketing and selling of the gemstones, a critical step in moving the local diamond industry up the global value chain.

MMCZ is the sole selling and marketing agent of government for all minerals produced in Zimbabwe, except gold and silver.-

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