Mpofu vows to continue selling diamonds

HARARE - Mines minister Obert Mpofu has vowed to continue selling Zimbabwe’s controversial diamonds whether or not the restrictive measures imposed on the gems are lifted.

Zimbabwean diamond mining companies were slapped with trade restriction measures by the United States of America and other Western countries, shortly after the country had complied with the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme for alleged human rights abuses.

The restrictions have made it difficult for the country to trade on an equal footing with fellow global diamond producers, resulting in the country selling its diamonds at 25 percent less than market value.

“We will not stop selling our diamonds because the world needs them,”Mpofu told delegates at the Diamond Conference 2012 Stakeholders’ Review yesterday.

Mpofu said the restrictions caused huge economic prejudice to Zimbabwe and more so on the international diamond community where there is a looming shortage of rough diamonds.

According to experts, Zimbabwe has the capacity to produce between 110 to 160 million carats of diamonds annually, making it one of the top five diamond producers by volume in the world.

The precious mineral was discovered in Zimbabwe in 1903.

A fortnight ago, Zimbabwe held a diamond conference — involving stakeholders from key markets, diamond miners and private sector   aimed at managing the world perception of country’s diamonds.

But, where the diamond revenue is going is not clear.

Market observers say the government seems unconcerned about providing clarity on how much is mined or earned from the country’s eastern Marange diamonds.

Mpofu dismissed calls for transparency.

“How then are you expected to be transparent when there are hyenas chasing you?” he said in reference to diamond watchdog groups.

“They want to know what car you drive, which house you are living in and what plane you are flying.”

This comes as Mpofu has challenged a Canadian non-governmental organisation, Partnership Africa Canada (Pac), to prove that he splashed $20 million on properties in recent years using money obtained from Marange diamonds.

Pac had released a report claiming that looting at the Marange diamond fields had worsened, with Mpofu being named among chief culprits.

Mpofu denied the accusations and dismissed the report as being funded by the Canadian government to “vilify and lie” about Zimbabwe.

“You think Africans can believe that nonsense? We are very emotional about it and we have suffered enough,” Mpofu said.

In his 2012 budget, Finance minister Biti said he expected $600 million from diamond sales, but Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chairperson Goodwills Masimirembwa said the figure had to be revised downwards to $150 million due to poor performance of diamond sales caused by Western sanctions. - John Kachembere

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