Monday, August 24, 2009

Zim diamonds will not be banned despite human rights abuses

By Alex Bell
21 August 2009

Zimbabwe will not face suspension from the international diamond regulatory body, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), despite the ongoing human rights abuses at the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

The regulatory body’s chairman, Namibian Mines Minister Bernhard Esau, told a press conference in Harare on Wednesday that calls by the group’s members to suspend Zimbabwe over human rights abuses will not be taken seriously. Esau, who is in Zimbabwe until Saturday to conduct yet another review of the country’s complicity with international diamond trade standards, told journalists that there had been recommendations made about ‘voluntary suspension’, but no consensus had been reached on the matter.

“Yes there are members of the Kimberly process trying to convince other members to suspend Zimbabwe but we will not entertain such (calls),” said Esau.

A recent KPCS delegation that was in Zimbabwe to investigate widespread reports of abuse and even killings in Chiadzwa, recommended in an unpublished, but leaked interim report, that the country be suspended. The team that was headed by Liberian deputy mines minister Kpandel Faiya issued the apparently damning report at the end of its visit calling for a temporary ban on trade in diamonds from Zimbabwe, until effective security and internal control measures and resources were in place. The delegation also urged the government to demilitarise the diamond fields, a call that has been wholly ignored.

Zimbabwe Mines Minister Obert Mpofu instead told Wednesday’s press conference that the government is ensuring total compliance with the recommendations made by the Kimberly team in its interim report.

In an apparent effort to convince the KPCS to issue a fresh report, absolving the country of any wrongdoings, the regulatory body’s head was given a tour of the still militarized diamond fields on Thursday. Esau and his team also visited the home of Newman Chiadzwa, whose homestead was reportedly destroyed by soldiers who ransacked his home some few weeks ago. Newman, who was reportedly a key witness to last month’s KPCS team about abuse at the diamond fields, has been in hiding because of increased harassment by police and the military. He has since been arrested on charges of diamond smuggling.

Deputy Mines Minister Murisi Zwizwai, who has previously denied any killings took place in Chiadzwa, told ZimOnline news service on Thursday that the Mines Ministry has showed the KPCS delegation Newman’s home and confiscated property “to clear the air in respect of his harassment.”

No comments: