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Zimbabwe Government Halts Diamond Auction

  • Ish Mafundikwa

The government of Zimbabwe has canceled a diamond auction that had been highly publicized in the state media. Announcing the cancellation, a government official said the company that announced the auction had not followed the procedure for diamond sales.

Both the state and electronic media heralded the auction set for Tuesday, but nothing happened until Ministry of Mines and Mining Development Permanent Secretary Thankful Musukutwa addressed the press. He said the sale of the diamonds would only go ahead after examination and certification by the so-called Kimberly Process Certification Scheme.

"The government of Zimbabwe and the KPCS are currently in the process of engaging that KP monitor and as such no export [of diamonds] will take place prior to certification by the KP monitor," said Thankful Musukutwa.

The diamonds in question are from the Marange fields, where human rights groups have reported widespread abuses by Zimbabwe's security forces against civilians. The Kimberley Process was set up to stop the sale of diamonds in areas where proceeds could be used to fund violence.

Despite calls by rights groups to have Zimbabwean diamond exports suspended over the alleged abuses, the Process decided instead to have all sales monitored at a meeting in Namibia late last year. It also gave the government six months to improve conditions in the Marange diamond fields. Musukutwa says the government abides by that decision.

"The government of Zimbabwe observes and is committed to the administrative decision of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme," said Musukutwa.

Musukutwa also said Mbada diamonds, which announced the auction, has not fulfilled government procedure for such sales.

Mbada is one of two South African-owned companies with which the Zimbabwean government went into partnership after the army forcibly removed ordinary people who had descended on the poorly protected diamond fields to look for the gems.