19 December 2012

Zimbabwe: KPCS Finally Sees the Light


It has taken far too long, but the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) has finally seen the light. It was inevitable.

Over a year ago, the KPCS deployed a team of monitors to assess the human rights situation in Marange and to supervise the sale of diamonds in Zimbabwe. Almost immediately, the two monitors, Abbey Chikane and Mark Van Bockstael, found that there were no human rights abuses in Chiadzwa and as was fitting, recommended that the position on Zimbabwe be reconsidered.

This proposition faced stiff opposition at the time but it appears a series of developments in the last few weeks has led to a new and refreshing position.

First, the International Diamond Conference held in Victoria Falls recently exposed the cracks in the KPCS. An overwhelming number of delegates expressed utter dissatisfaction at the continued isolation of Zimbabwe. This was a major shift of opinion for it represented a definitive change in approach by countries long seen as supportive of America's desire to see the Marange gems shunned for as long as possible by the international community.

These countries, of which the most notable were India, South Africa, Dubai and Botswana, effectively repudiated America's decision, as out-going KPCS chair, that Zimbabwe was to remain under close watch because she had not fully complied with the minimum requirements of the KPCS.

United States and the European Union (EU) were also humiliated at the same meeting for their concerted plan to keep sanctions in place for four of Zimbabwe 's major mining companies, Anjin, Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Corporation and Mbada Diamonds. The feeling was that this was nothing more than a scheme to stifle economic growth in Zimbabwe in the hope of effecting regime change.

So delegates in Victoria Falls exposed the US. But they did more than that. By demanding that the sanctions on Zimbabwe be lifted and the country be allowed to trade her diamonds freely and fairly, several nations signalled that they were ditching the US' long-term and public strategy of isolating Zimbabwe for its own selfish political purposes.

For a moment, the US thought that this show of solidarity with Zimbabwe was a fluke and that it would not last. But then came Washington DC. There, a second door was opened. Delegates demanded that the KP should without delay withdraw its monitors from Marange and allow Zimbabwe the liberty to sell her diamonds without further supervision. So overwhelming was the demand that the EU, which chaired the sub-committee that was tasked to deal with Zimbabwe, gave in and allowed to push through a resolution to withdraw KP monitors from Zimbabwe.

And so what does this sudden change of opinion mean for Zimbabwe? Three things: The first is that the regime-change agenda in Zimbabwe has been severely weakened. I say this because since 2001 when the US imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe through the so-called Zimbabwe Democracy Act, she has relied heavily on economic sabotage as a tool for effecting regime-change.

The prohibition of US citizens and allies from investing in Zimbabwe is one example. The fact that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank cannot lend money to the government of Zimbabwe under any circumstances whatsoever is another example. Indeed, the economic turmoil of 2008 was really the cumulative effect of this economic sabotage by the US and the EU and it had been hoped that by frustrating the sale of diamonds, Zimbabwe 's priciest asset, the government of Zimbabwe would once again be brought to its knees.

It has to be admitted that signs of that eventuality were beginning to show. Despite having huge deposits of diamonds which experts say could by 2015 contribute 30 percent of the global diamond output by volume and 25 percent by value, the government of Zimbabwe has struggled to improve basic services like water and sanitation, health, education and infrastructure for its people.

But this might yet be reversed because the withdrawal of KP monitors means Zimbabwe can sell her diamonds freely and can licence more diamond companies to operate and thereby increase the volume of diamonds sold. The consequence of this of course is that more money will start to flow in and the government of Zimbabwe will be better able to cater for the needs of its citizens.

The second consequence of the recent shift of opinion is that the US can no longer be regarded as an indispensable global power. It used to be the case that no country could afford to act in defiance of the wishes of the US and the EU, no matter how misguided the wishes. But obviously that is no longer the case and it now looks certain that the US risks isolation should she refuse to accept the new world order.

The third and most significant consequence is that Zimbabwe is finally at liberty to sale her diamonds without external interference. This is as it should be given that we are an autonomous nation. But we have gained more than just our freedom. The decision in Washington DC means that we can now certify as KP compliant several companies that could not mine diamonds in Chiadzwa and elsewhere because of the compliance impediment.

It also means that Zimbabwe does no longer have to feel the need to limit itself as to the quantities of diamonds to push on the market. Increasing the volume of our sales means our revenue will also increase and that is good for the economy and certainly good for the welfare of our people.

Had the KP come to the same conclusion a few years back, Zimbabwe would have grown its economy and created employment for millions of its citizens. It would be nice to have an apology, or even simply an acceptance that the KP was wrong all along. After all, Christmas is a time for forgiveness and rebirth.

Just one final point: It would be going too far to think that this change of opinion will cause the US and the EU to lift their sanctions on Zimbabwe. They have maintained that these sanctions will remain and they deserve to be taken seriously considering that sanctions are the only remaining leverage for the MDC-T in the regime change matrix.

Nevertheless, it is worthwhile noting that there have been huge changes taking place regarding Zimbabwe. It is becoming increasingly common to hear nations opposing the US and the EU regarding their stance on Zimbabwe and it is to be fervently hoped that this trend continues until the sanctions go - and they will eventually.

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