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14 september 2012

Zimbabwe has sidestepped the initial organisers of the country’s first ever international diamond conference.

This followed reports that Mines Minister Obert Mpofu would now host the international diamond forum between November 12 and 13 in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

Country Factor, which was the brains behind the aborted July international diamond conference, said it was not part of the upcoming event.

“We are not organising the November conference, it is actually news to me,” Company principal Troy Reuben told Rough & Polished in a telephone interview from his base in London.

He said the event that was scheduled for July was called off by the Ministry of Mines without any reason.

“We were just told that the event has been cancelled,” he lamented. “However, we respected the decision of the Zimbabwean government.”

Reuben said they had expended a lot of energy and time convincing international delegates and speakers to attend and address the event respectively, only to be left in the cold.

“It was such a disappointment,” he said.

Utho Capital, which partnered Country Factor in organising the aborted forum, also told Rough & Polished that it was not aware of the November conference.

“We have not been approached by the ministry of mines to organise the conference you have mentioned. We are currently busy organising the Zimbabwe Mining Indaba, which will take place between 12 and 14 September in Harare,” said a company representative identified as Matildah.

The aborted July event had been initially penciled for Victoria Falls’ Ellephant Hills Hotel before it was moved to Harare’s Meikles Hotel.

No reason for this change of venue was given, but it served as a precursor of the challenges the event was facing.

Several would be delegates and journalists (including this writer) had bought their air tickets, first for Victoria Falls and later changed to Harare (for an extra fee of course) only to be told that the event had been cancelled with just a week to go.

We will always speculate as to what really led to the break-up between these British organisers and the Zimbabweans.

Could it be that the two countries do not see eye to eye, politically?

Who knows? Maybe that was the source of the problems, given that 10 Downing Street had been on the fore-front calling for the ban of Marange diamonds, arguing that they were being used to oil President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.

So, we are told that the November conference, being organised by minister Mpofu, would seek to highlight the accomplishments of Zimbabwe in the diamond industry.

“After having been accepted again as a full member of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in Kinshasa in 2011, Zimbabwe stands ready to give the world full transparency on its achievements as a major diamond producer,” he said.

Apart from Mpofu, the conference would also be addressed by the World Diamond Council chairperson Eli Izhakoff, Ahmed Bin Sulayem, the executive chairman of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, Ernie Blom, the vice president of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, Peter Meeus, the chairman of the Dubai Diamond Exchange, Abbey Chikane and diamantaire Vasant Mehta, the former chairman of the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council.

Representatives of Mbada Diamonds, Murowa, Diamond Mining Company, Anjin, River Ranch and Marange Resources were also expected to address the conference.

Zimbabwe is currently the fifth top diamond producer in the world by volume having produced 8.5 million carats in 2011.

It also exported 7.7 million carats in the same year valued at $422.9 million.

However, these figures were being treated with suspicion by some critics.

“I do not believe Marange diamonds are that cheap. I am persuaded to think these prices are for the media only, the true value of Marange diamonds are known by the sellers and the buyers,” Centre for Research and Development director Farai Maguwu told Rough & Polished.

“These potentially misleading figures may be given to silence growing skepticism and frustration among the Zimbabwean people who keep being told to be patient whilst a few individuals are lining their pockets.”

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished