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Zimbabwe's Controversial Diamonds Not for Sale

  • Peta Thornycroft

A Zimbabwe judge has denied an urgent appeal by the diamond mining company African Consolidated Resources to block a controversial sale of diamonds. Despite initial reports by state-controlled media in Harare that the ruling lifted a two-month ban on the sale of Zimbabwe's diamonds, a higher court's original order remains in effect.

Judge Ebrahim Patel ruled last week that there was no urgent need for the High Court to hear African Consolidated Resources' appeal for an order halting the sale of diamonds extracted from the Marange area in eastern Zimbabwe.

The judge had been asked to hear the appeal as a matter of urgency, and he confined his ruling to that aspect of the case. He was not asked, and therefore made no ruling specifically about the sale of the diamonds, which are currently held for safekeeping at the country's central bank, by order of the Supreme Court.

African Consolidated Resources said in court filings that urgent consideration of its appeal was necessary because the company expected the diamonds would certified for sale this month by a monitor from the Kimberley Process, which seeks to stop sales of conflict diamonds.

The monitor, South African Abbey Chikane, said in a written report last month that he intended to return to Zimbabwe in April to see whether authorities there had remedied a number of security concerns he had previously identified, and which were preventing certification of the gemstones' legal status.

Reports circulated Tuesday from the Harare Herald newspaper and the Ziana news agency, both long controlled by President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party, indicated sale of the diamonds was now possible. African Consolidated Resources said Wednesday those reports were incorrect.

The firm is pursuing its attempt to prevent any sale of the diamonds, but said its appeal will now be heard through the High Court's normal schedule.

ACR's chief executive, Andrew Cranswick, said Wednesday the firm is relying on a Supreme Court ruling two months ago that ordered an immediate halt to all mining in the Marange area, and that any rough stones extracted to date, should be held by the central bank. However, ACR and other companies servicing mining operations in eastern Zimbabwe say two Zimbabwe companies backed by South African and Mauritian shareholders continue to mine for diamonds despite the Supreme Court ban.

Zimbabwe's controversial diamond fields made international headlines last year when human-rights groups including Global Witness, reported gross human-rights abuses in the Marange area, most of them committed by members of the Zimbabwe security forces.