News / Economy

Belgium Pushes EU to Lift Sanctions on Zimbabwe Diamond Miner

FILE - Miners dig for diamonds in Marange, eastern Zimbabwe.
FILE - Miners dig for diamonds in Marange, eastern Zimbabwe.
Reuters
Belgium, center of the global diamond trade, is demanding that the European Union lift sanctions on a Zimbabwean mining firm despite deep concerns within the bloc over alleged fraud in a July election that kept President Robert Mugabe in power.
 
Belgium's call for the removal of sanctions on the state-run Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) has put it at odds with other EU countries such as Britain which is reluctant to rush into a move that could be seen as rewarding Mugabe.
 
EU states are squabbling over how to interpret an agreement by EU foreign ministers in February to lift sanctions on ZMDC within a month of the poll unless EU governments unanimously agreed the vote was not “peaceful, transparent and credible.”
 
This was part of an EU strategy of easing sanctions to try to encourage 89-year-old Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader who has ruled the former British colony for 33 years, to hold a fair election.
 
Mugabe overwhelmingly won the July 31 vote but it was denounced as a “huge fraud” by his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
 
The EU has expressed “serious concerns” over the alleged irregularities.
 
However, Belgium - home to the world's leading diamond trading hub at Antwerp - argues that the EU has not refused to recognize the election and so the February agreement must be respected and sanctions on ZMDC lifted.
 
“For us, there is an agreement,” Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hendrik van de Velde said.
 
He said the agreement was confirmed by diplomats from EU member states last Friday and it was now simply a question of drawing up a legal instrument lifting the sanctions on ZMDC, something he expected to happen soon.
 
Belgium's interpretation of the debate is not shared by EU officials who say talks are still going on about what to do.
 
Inevitable
 
Former colonial power Britain, which has been more critical of the Zimbabwean elections than the EU as a whole, is reluctant to see a rush to lift sanctions on ZMDC.
 
“No decision has yet been taken regarding the de-listing of any individual or entity under the measures related to Zimbabwe, including ZMDC. Discussions continue on the listing of ZMDC,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman in London said.
 
However unwelcome the move would be to Britain, some European diplomats say it is inevitable the bloc will have to lift sanctions on ZMDC in line with the February agreement.
 
“At the end of the day, we have to delist ZMDC,” a diplomat from one EU country said, asking not to be named.
 
ZMDC operates five joint-venture mines in the rich Marange diamond fields, producing eight million carats last year and generating $685 million in exports, the state-owned Herald newspaper reported earlier this year.
 
Belgium says lifting EU sanctions on ZMDC would increase Zimbabwe's tax revenues by $400 million a year as well as bringing more trade to Antwerp.
 
Mugabe, buoyed by broad approval from African election observers for the vote, has rejected the Western skepticism.
 
Anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness, citing links between mining companies, insiders in Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Zimbabwe's pro-Mugabe military, has alleged that state diamond revenues may have been directly spent on securing the Mugabe re-election through intimidation of voters and vote-rigging.
 
“We would be very concerned if sanctions were lifted on ZMDC now,” Global Witness' senior campaigner on conflict resources, Emily Armistead, told Reuters. “These sorts of allegations need to be looked at much more carefully before the EU makes a decision.”

You May Like

US, Brazil's Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

Officials say joint initiative on climate change will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

After Nearly a Century, Voodoo Opera Rises Again

Opera centers on character named Lolo, a Louisiana plantation worker and Voodoo priestess More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8926
JPY
USD
123.71
GBP
USD
0.6358
CAD
USD
1.2364
INR
USD
63.600

Rates may not be current.