Zimbabwe says it has been given permission to sell diamonds by an international regulator, despite charges of human-rights abuses in the diamond fields.
According to Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, Zimbabwe has four million carats of diamonds from the Marange area, ready to be auctioned. He told his party controlled Zanu-PF media the rough stones are worth between $32 million and $1.7 billion.
Mpofu says South African monitor Abbey Chikane, who was appointed by international regulator the Kimberley Process, has cleared Zimbabwe to export stones from Marange.
Chikane visited Zimbabwe for the second time in May and his report will be considered by Kimberley Process executives this month in Tel Aviv.
Chikane's report says that many of the shortfalls in security around the diamond fields that he saw during his first visit in March have been rectified. He recommended the Zimbabwe National Army be retained to patrol the diamond fields until commercial security is in place to make the area safe.
Chikane said he met many people from different sectors in the diamond mining industry including Farai Muguwu who runs a small non-governmental organization that has investigated human-rights abuses in the diamond fields within the Marange area.
Chikane's report says Muguwu gave him some documents that broke Zimbabwe's official secrets act. Muguwu is in detention in police cells in Harare and the Attorney-General's office says it will charge him with publishing and communicating statements prejudicial to the state.
Muguwu has said in many interviews with media and human-rights groups that hundreds of people have been killed by Zimbabwe's security forces in the diamond fields since 2007.
A report from the Global Witness rights group that was released in London has called for the international community to reject diamonds from the Marange area. It has also called for the Kimberley Process to ensure that human-rights abuses in Zimbabwe's large diamond fields are fully investigated and perpetrators prosecuted and called for the army to be withdrawn from the area.
The report also charges that two new mining companies operating in Marange in a joint venture with the Zimbabwe government were awarded mining licenses without due process.
Chikane's mandate from the Kimberley Process did not include investigations into human-rights abuses in the Marange diamond fields.
Another new report, from the Partnership Africa Canada, says Zimbabawe's security chiefs are in control and profiting from the diamond production. The group said it has evidence of numeropus killings in Marange and if the Kimberley Process is unable to discipline Zimbabwe the U.N. Security Council should embargo Zimbabwe's diamonds until there is competent control of the country's resources.