MINES minister Obert Mpofu, already facing serious accusations from the World Diamond Council of lying about the Chiadzwa diamonds, has got himself into further trouble by misleading the public over cabinet’s position on the controversial issue, fiercely debated by ministers this week.Information obtained from high-level sources shows that contrary to Mpofu’s claims in the state media on Wednesday, cabinet did not approve the sale of the Chiadzwa diamonds. Zimbabwe has stockpiled nearly four million carats of diamonds valued at about US$2 billion.
“Cabinet did not approve the sale of Marange diamonds,” a senior government minister said. “The truth of the matter is that the issue was referred to the cabinet committee on Chiadzwa. How can cabinet approve the sale of the Chiadzwa diamonds when the KPCS (Kimberley Process Certification Scheme) has not been concluded?”
The cabinet committee on Chiadzwa includes ministers Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, Elton Mangoma, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mpofu.
Another minister said Mpofu was “economical with the truth” in claiming cabinet had approved diamond sales. “It’s not true that cabinet approved the sale of Chiadzwa diamonds. The issue is still under consideration both by the cabinet committee and the KPCS.”
One minister said the principle of selling was agreed to but the issue was referred to the cabinet committee to clear remaining hurdles before renewed exports.
Mpofu was quoted in the Herald on Wednesday claiming cabinet had approved the sale of the controversial Chiadzwa diamonds which have triggered a global storm of protest and hectic lobbying.
“It was clear from the meeting that cabinet agrees with immediate sale of our diamonds,” Mpofu was quoted as saying. “We need to come up with a mechanism of proceeding with this process. The mechanism will be transparent and accountable.”
However, several ministers asked about the issue this week said that was not true.
Local and international human rights groups have been mobilising against the sale of the Marange gems which they describe as “blood diamonds” because of alleged human rights abuses at the Chiadzwa fields. They say human rights violations must end first and the diamonds must be sold transparently for the benefit of the country, not individuals.
The issue has also sucked in big diamonds producers around the world, especially those under the KPCS.
A KPCS meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel, last week ended in a stalemate over whether Zimbabwe could resume diamond exports from the troubled Marange area. Mpofu and his delegation were unhappy with the deadlock, while the civil society coalition working with the KPCS welcomed the outcome.
The Tel Aviv meeting broke up without agreement after through-the-night talks. However, Mpofu came home claiming Zimbabwe had been allowed to sell its diamonds, an assertion rejected by the World Diamond Council president Eli Izhakoff as false.
The Chiadzwa diamond debate has also left cabinet deeply-divided. There have been several clashes over this issue, including on Tuesday.
President Robert Mugbe and his Zanu PF ministers say Zimbabwe must be allowed to sell because it has fulfilled KPCS procedures, but Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and their ministers say all necessary procedures must be met first before the sale of the diamonds.
Zimbabwe’s fate on whether to sell the diamonds now through the KPCS would be decided at the World Diamond Council meeting in St. Petersburg in Russia on July 14/15.
Izhakoff said there were burning issues on the table for the meeting, mainly the Zimbabwe matter.
“Our industry will gather at the World Diamond Council annual meeting to reconfirm our commitment to ethical trading and to the eradication of conflict diamonds from our distribution chain,” Izhakoff recently said.
“As the past year has demonstrated, we will not be assembling in St. Petersburg simply to pay lip service to the values upon which the organisation was founded. The ongoing situation in countries like Zimbabwe and the dedication of our industry to operate in a transparent and principled manner means that there are burning issues on the table, which we will discuss and for which we will formulate strategies.”
Efforts to get Mpofu’s comment last night were in vain as he was not answering his mobile phone. – Staff Writer.