THE NOW DAILY DIAMOND REPORT
By JOHN CHIMUNHU
The ongoing scramble for the disputed Marange diamonds in Manicaland Province has earned Zimbabwe the dubious distinction of being a major perpetrator of gemstone-related violence amid vicious military operations by President Robert Mugabe’s government. The security forces have been battling for control of the diamond fields since 2008 when they were annexed from the British company African Consolidated Resources. Military generals have now amassed millions from the racket. One bought a mansion and a lake with swans in Borrowdale Brooke, next to the Mugabes. The generals’ original intention was to drive out thousands of illegal artisanal miners but they have themselves been implicated in the diamond smuggling syndicates which have ripped billions of dollars from Zimbabwe’s state treasury.
At the Kimberly Process assembly in Shanghai, China, last week, Zimbabwe was castigated as an abuser of human rights at a scale comparable to what was seen in ‘blood diamond’ conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Lightweight, valuable and easy to smuggle, rough diamonds have been responsible for fuelling some of the worst armed conflict in Africa – from Sierra Leone and Liberia to Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” says a scathing report released at the Shanghai summit by Partnership Africa Canada titled, “Not All That Glitters Is Gold”.
“More recently, countries like Zimbabwe and Angola have emerged as the main perpetrators of diamonds-related human rights abuses, as their governments have waged violent campaigns to control lucrative diamond fields. In such jurisdictions, diamonds are often used to shore up threatened political elites, perpetuate corruption and deprive state coffers of much-needed revenues.”
THE DUBAI CONNECTION
The PAC report throws valuable light on the shady dealings that it says cost Zimbabwe $770 million in lost diamond revenue between 2008 and 2012. It falls short, however, on naming officials involved in the corruption. But it provides three new crucial details about how Zimbabwean officials managed to offload what other researchers say are billions of dollars worth of smuggled stones:
* That Dubai is the capital of the diamond underworld where gemstones from Zimbabwe, banned by the Kimberly Process until 2010 were laundered.
* That Zimbabwean officials used the Democratic Republic of Congo to obtain fake KP diamond certificates, which were then used to aunthenticate the banned Marange stones in Dubai.
* That transfer pricing is an ongoing feature of the diamond trade and Zimbabwean stones were grossly undervalued by officials who pocketed millions of dollars from the fraud.
The figure of $800 million lost to the diamond thieves is considered conservative.
Other researchers, such as Centre For Natural Resource Governance director Farai Maguwu, have put a price tag of over $2.3 billion to the gemstones that were sold clandestinely by officials who accounted only for a fraction of what they offloaded in Dubai and other shady diamond markets. (c) John Chimunhu, 2014.