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05 october 2009

The Zimbabwean diamond saga had been a subject of much debate and confusion, as several stories had been and are still being told regarding the correct position of the Kimberley Process and its affiliates on this issue.

It is not a secret that several Non Governmental Organisations such as the Human Rights Watch and Partnership Africa Canada had been calling for the suspension of the southern African country from the KP citing gross human rights abuse on illegal gems miners.

Some reports have also noted that the Zimbabwean army had refused to vacate the Chiadzwa diamond fields despite recommendations by a KP review mission that visited the country late June for the demilitarization of the area.

Short Wave Radio Africa, which broadcasts from London, but mainly for a Zimbabwean audience, recently had an interview with the World Diamond Council (WDC) President and chief executive Eli Izhakoff to get his position on this diamond saga.

Rough & Polished’s Mathew Nyaungwa had time to listen to the interview, in which Izhakoff concurred with recent comments made by KP chairperson Bernhard Esau that the diamond monitoring body had not made any decision yet on whether to suspend Zimbabwe or not. This is what he transcribed.

What is your comment on the developments taking place in Zimbabwe regarding diamond mining at Chiadzwa?

The review mission visited Zimbabwe not too long ago (and) came up with an interim report and in that report they put forward certain recommendations or demands, if you will, and we certainly hope that the government of Zimbabwe will take note of those recommendations and are implemented. One of those recommendations, I understand, was that the military should be withdrawn from those territories (Chiadzwa diamond fields).

We have seen that the military has remained in control and the Kimberley Process itself has also said that it will not suspend Zimbabwe from the body. What kind of role do you think KP need to take in this situation?

Well, I have seen some press reports to that effect but am not sure how credible are those reports because the Kimberley Process is in the process of this review visit report. The jury is still open and I don’t think a decision was made, (and I will) not predict whether the decision should go this way or that way. We are going to get the final report, I understand within few days, and then it will go to the monitoring committee. Nothing was decided yet, so I believe the jury is still open, once a decision comes down, everybody will hear about it. I don’t think a decision was made to expel or not to expel.

Would a suspension be the best route to go in a situation like Zimbabwe?

Well, the best route would be for them (Zimbabwe) to remedy the situation on the ground. Nobody wants them out of the system if they do meet the minimum requirements, but if they don’t they will be suspended.

Looking at the Kimberley Process itself, we know that this is quite a politicized system with government officials in place, do you think the way it is managed and run needs to be changed?

There has been talk of really tightening up their system and today decisions are taken by a consensus, you need 100 percent of all countries to agree in order to move forward. We have been doing that, we have been doing it very successfully, but very slowly and hopefully we can change that in future to a system were a majority of, let us say, something like two thirds will decide and would make the system much more efficient and much faster, that could be in the cards and make the whole Kimberley process much more efficient and better.

The Kimberley Process has already faced criticism with people saying that it is not effective enough in stopping the flow of blood diamonds in the diamond trade. Do you think this kind of criticism is justified?

Well, criticism is always good - it makes you get better and I think there is plenty of room for us to make the system better. Having said that it has been working and the fact that we are speaking about Zimbabwe shows that it is working. Zimbabwe is a small producer of diamonds, it is not a major producer, the rest of all the diamond production goes to the Kimberley Process very successfully, so we have to look at everything in perspective, as I said the mere fact that we get criticism and its specific criticism about this specific situation shows that we have been successful and could we do better? Of course, we are going to do better.   

Finally, if the military in Zimbabwe is allowed to keep its control on the Chiadzwa diamond mines will the World Diamond Council also call for the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Kimberley Process?

We have just issued a statement calling for Zimbabwe to implement the recommendations of the review mission and hopefully the final report (will allow them), perhaps, 30 days to comment on it. I would recommend for them to start doing it right now, not to wait for the final report, not to wait for those 30 days they have to comment on the report. They should start right now to remedy the situation on the ground then we don’t have to call for the suspension but if they at the end (fail to) implement those recommendations, we have no choice but to recommend to the Kimberley Process to call on the suspension of Zimbabwe.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Rough&Polished from Namibia