Aljazeera
Khadija Sharife Last Modified: 25 Jul 2011
The recent regulatory approval of Zimbabwean diamonds for sale reveals deep flaws in the system.
The recent approval of Zimbabwean diamonds mined from the $800bn Marange fields by the Kimberley Process (KP) chair, the DRC‘s Mathieu Yamba Lapfa Lambang, has prompted a global “human rights” outcry with KP members such as Canada, the EU, and the US claiming there was “no consensus”.

Meanwhile, other countries like China (the world’s fastest growing diamond consumer market), and India (which cuts and polishes 11 of 12 stones) have all given the green light to Zimbabwe, removing any potential problems of surplus minerals from Marange, which has been described by Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti as “the biggest find of alluvial diamonds in the history of mankind”.

With potential revenues pegged at $1-1.7bn annually, the support of neighbouring governments like South Africa, another major diamond producer, and “host” country to 3 million Zimbabwean political and economic “refugees”, is not surprising. Nor is the potential KP rupture being shaped as a battle between politically “interfering” Western nations and cash-starved developing nations.

That Zimbabwe’s diamonds are mined under the direct surveillance of the country’s vicious military and controlled by brutal lifetime dictator Robert Mugabe is not in question. Since the discovery of Marange’s diamonds in 2006, the military has largely supervised mining; mass looting by political, corporate and military elites has occurred, accompanied by violent displacement and human rights violations; companies based in secret jurisdictions such as Mauritius and Hong Kong have been granted “due diligence” approval; and there exists complete opacity over volumes extracted, exported and sold.

But to what extent does the vehement opposition stem from political objections to a nation controlled by the blatantly anti-Western Mugabe? More broadly, was the KP system – propagating that less than one per cent of global diamonds constitute “blood” minerals – built for the purposes of eliminating corporate and state-sanctioned exploitation, or normalising and sanitising it? Read more.