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Zim to try Antwerp again, conduct local diamond auction in Nov

27 august 2014

Zimbabwe is again set to conduct diamond auctions in Antwerp, Belgium, before it convenes its own domestic exchange in November this year.

The Herald newspaper quoted mines and mining development minister Walter Chidhakwa as saying that Harare was looking at one or two Auctions in Antwerp, the world’s largest diamond trade centre, between now and November this year.

He also said that the planned local auction would coincide with the upcoming diamond conference set for Zimbabwe’s capital early November.

"In November we will have the diamond conference and together with the diamond conference, we will have the (domestic) auction," he said.

Chidhakwa said they wanted to give buyers interested in coming to purchase local gems an opportunity to be part of the bi-annual conference.

Zimbabwe conducted its second Antwerp auction last February, which officials attracted an average price of $72 per carat.

This gave an impression that the Dubai auction held after the Antwerp February auction had attracted $76 per carat.

Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) chief executive Ari Epstein disputed the claims as insisted that the auction attracted an average price of about $80 per carat not what had been peddled by Zimbabwean officials.

However, Chidhakwa also dug in saying their position was accurate.

“I really do not know what he (Epstein) is talking about. We still stand by the report that we issued after the auction that the diamonds were sold at $72 per carat,” he was quoted as saying by a local weekly last May in response to an article that Rough & Polished had published.

“What we know is that they (Antwerp) want to prove that they are better than Dubai. They should do so in a better way.”

“As we prepare for the auctions that we intend to conduct locally, we will continue to learn from other markets, including Dubai and Antwerp.”

Although, Zimbabwe conducted its second public auction in Dubai from the third week of July to early August, no details of the auction had been made public yet.

Some Zimbabwean government officials, it emerged, were not impressed by Dubai’s way of doing business as the country went up to May failing to redeem $30 million from Global Diamond Tenders, which facilitated the tender at the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE) late March.

Zimbabwe’s finance minister Patrick Chinamasa blamed the delay in the remittance of the auction proceeds on the DDE.

"Naturally, DDE have failed the test. Remember, when we went there we were testing the market. Why would we continue selling our diamonds in Dubai under such conditions?" the minister said.

“Obviously, the delay is affecting us. We could have used that money to fund some of the projects awaiting completion.”

Chinamasa said he was not sure of the reason why it had taken long for Zimbabwe to receive its money.

However, Chidhwakwa appeared to shield Dubai from the bricks thrown at them by his counterpart.

“Dubai isn’t the issue but the facilitators. We have been selling our diamonds there since 2007 and we have never had problems before. It’s a lucrative market and we still have an opportunity to sell in that market,” said Chidhakwa.

Even President Robert Mugabe could not hide his liking for Dubai.

 “Here we have the same Third World people with sympathies for us. Together, we are part of the KPC process. You do not have the evil heart of Europe,” Mugabe said during his visit to the DDE offices early this year.

“We want to be partners in trade. We want partners who regard us as human beings, partners who share our misfortunes and appreciate that we want to develop also in the same way that we appreciate their own development.

“Together with you, we want to enhance the Dubai process of selling diamonds. We haven’t gone Kimberlite mining. We are going to start that now. People have been doing alluvial mining, and also conglomerates. Yet we have lots of Kimberlite areas across the country.”

After all this, there is no doubt that the latest development showed that Harare and Antwerp had buried their hatchets, if any.

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