News / Africa

Activists Fear Diamonds Will Fund Mugabe Power Grab

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe speaks at the start of a conference of parties and civic society groups reviewing a draft constitution that, if adopted, will lead to Zimbabwe's next election, at a hotel in Harare, October 22, 2012.Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe speaks at the start of a conference of parties and civic society groups reviewing a draft constitution that, if adopted, will lead to Zimbabwe's next election, at a hotel in Harare, October 22, 2012.
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Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe speaks at the start of a conference of parties and civic society groups reviewing a draft constitution that, if adopted, will lead to Zimbabwe's next election, at a hotel in Harare, October 22, 2012.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe speaks at the start of a conference of parties and civic society groups reviewing a draft constitution that, if adopted, will lead to Zimbabwe's next election, at a hotel in Harare, October 22, 2012.
Selah Hennessy
A lack of transparency in the sale of diamonds remains a major problem in Zimbabwe and activists fear diamond revenues may be used to fund the campaign of President Robert Mugabe's party in an election due to take place early next year.
 
In 2009 an international ban was imposed on the sale of Zimbabwe’s diamonds. That came as a result of allegations that some mines were controlled by the military and that funds were diverted to Mugabe's ZANU-PF.

Last year that decision was reversed and a diamond watchdog body, the Kimberley Process, gave Zimbabwe the green light to sell its diamonds on the international market.

Troubling issues linger

Farai Maguwu, director of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance in eastern Zimbabwe, said major problems remain unsolved.

Most importantly, he said, it’s unclear where revenue from the sale of diamonds is ending up.

“On the issue of revenue transparency nothing has changed. I think the conditions are getting even worse and worse," said Maguwu. "We have the minister of finance on record saying he is not getting much of the diamond revenues in the treasury, which means individuals and other groups of people are profiting from the diamonds at the expense of the nation.”

In July, Finance Minister Tendai Biti slashed Zimbabwe’s 2012 budget, saying funds from diamond mines had failed to bolster the treasury.

National security questions

The Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation said it expects to earn $150 million from the sale of diamonds this year, rather than the $600 million predicted. That's a 75 percent shortfall.

The low profits, it said, are a result of international sanctions, especially from the United States.

Maguwu said the military continues to play a leading role in Zimbabwe’s mining industry and that, he said, raises serious questions about national security.  

“There are quite a number of security officials who are involved in diamond mining," he said. "Some of them are on the boards of the diamond mining companies and when you have got individuals becoming richer than the state and you have the military abdicating from their role of providing national security to get involved in commercial activities - that is a recipe for political instability in the country.”

A major diamond conference is due to take place in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls later this month.

Upcoming elections

Maguwu said the decision to bring Zimbabwe back into the Kimberley Process should be assessed, looking at whether the situation in Zimbabwe has improved since the ban was lifted.  

Meanwhile, Mugabe has called for elections to take place in March.

Human Rights Watch Africa Advocacy Director Tiseke Kasambala said she is concerned that diamond revenue is likely to fund violence ahead of the polls.

“The conditions on the ground are not conducive to the holding of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe," said Kasambala. "The military retains control of Marange diamond revenue and this is the same military that was involved in widespread abuses in 2008 and was not held accountable for those abuses.”

The 2008 elections were marred by violence, most of it by ZANU-PF supporters against the opposition MDC party.

Months of political turmoil followed the elections - the end result was that Mugabe agreed to form a power-sharing deal with the MDC party, led by Morgan Tsvangirai. Mugabe has said he wants elections in order to end that arrangement. The MDC has said elections hinge on passage of a new constitution.

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Comments
     
by: Sean Clinton from: Ireland
November 09, 2012 7:30 AM
The failure of the Kimberley Process members to broaden the definition of a "conflict diamond" and ensure all diamonds that fund human rights violations are banned, cut and polished as well as rough diamonds, means consumers can have no confidence in the ethical provenance of any diamonds. Jewellers are fraudaulently claiming diamonds are conflict-free even though a large percentage of the diamonds on the international market are funding regimes guilty of gross human rights violations including war crimes and crimes against humanity in the case of diamonds processed in Israel. The Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition has failed to represent the interests of civil society and has allowed the vested interests in the diamond industry to dictate what diamonds can and cannot be classed as "conflict diamonds". Thier continued participation in the KP is being used by the diamond industry as a fig leaf to hide the global trade in what are de-facto blood diamonds. Yesterday Israeli forces in Gaza murdered a 13 year old boy, Hamid Younis Abu Dagka. The Israeli diamond industry generates over $1 billion in funding for the Israeli military each year. Despite this, jewelers continue to claim diamond crafted in Israeli are conflict-free. Jewellers must end the trade in all blood diamonds regardless of whether they are from Africa or from Israel.

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