HomeLocalDiamonds not benefiting Zim people –– Canning

Diamonds not benefiting Zim people –– Canning

BRITISH Ambassador Mark Canning this week expressed concern over Zimbabwe’s handling of rough diamonds mined at Marange and the timing of elections which President Robert Mugabe wants mid-next year.

Canning told journalists that the proceeds realised so far from the sale of Marange diamonds were not benefiting ordinary Zimbabweans.
He said Britain would continue to oppose the export of the Marange diamonds until there is evidence that they are benefiting Zimbabweans.
“Diamonds –– what is happening in Marange is very wrong. The benefits from Marange diamonds are not used for the benefit of this country,” he said.
“What we see here is that a resource is being exploited not for the benefit of Zimbabweans, you know what is happening.”
The Kimberley Process earlier this month failed to reach an agreement authorising future diamond exports from Marange. An agreement was widely accepted at the KP plenary in Jerusalem in Israel but was blocked by Canada and Australia. The plenary meeting ended with a decision to continue negotiation until a unanimous agreement is reached.
To broker a resolution on the exports of the diamonds, the KP’s Working Group on Monitoring met this week in Brussels. But Zimbabwe boycotted the meeting and has since written to the KP chairman saying the ban was invalid.
Zimbabwe accused KP chairman Boaz Hirsch of not dealing with it honourably and with integrity and for yielding to what it described as “political schemes devised by NGOs and participants opposed to the diamond exports”.
The Brussels meeting was attended by the United States, South Africa, Israel, the European Union, the World Diamond Council, Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada (PAC).
Exports from Marange are subject to restrictions imposed by KP rough diamond certification scheme because of concerns regarding human rights abuses and military involvement in diamond mining and smuggling in the region.
On elections, Canning said the environment was not conducive to a free and fair elections. He said Zimbabwe has to ensure that the constitutional process was completed in an orderly and well-paced way.
“The draft constitution –– all this takes months. It’s hard to see how this could be done sooner,” he said.
President Robert Mugabe has said there is no need to extend the unity government by six months after its expiry in February next year. He said the constitution-making process should be fast-tracked so that a referendum is held early next year and an election mid-next year.
In addition to a smooth and orderly constitution-making process, Canning said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and others like the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission should be capacitated, while technical changes should be made to the voters roll and electoral laws before an election is held.
Canning said thorough and comprehensive monitoring arrangements should also be put in place prior to a credible, free and fair election.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has insisted that electoral, media and security reforms should be implemented before an election. He wants Sadc, the African Union and international observers and monitors to be stationed in the country six months before and after the election.
“Obviously, it is for the parties to the GPA to decide when the next election should be held,” Canning said. “However, it’s important to note that an election that is held too soon is likely to be much like the last one in 2008,” Canning said. “If a poll was held prematurely, it would be most unlikely to be either free or fair. I sympathise with people’s views that elections are the last thing on their mind. It is inconceivable that it will be a successful election if it is done too early.”
Turning to sanctions, the British ambassador was non-committal on the argument, advanced by Presidents Jacob Zuma and Seretse Khama, on whether it would be politically prudent to remove sanctions and see how Zanu PF reacts on fully implementing the Global Political Agreement.
Journalists in the briefing raised the issue of Zanu PF’s refusal to implement the 24 agreed issues and make concessions on the other three issues involving the appointments of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney-General Johannes Tomana until sanctions are removed.
Just last month, Mugabe re-appointed provincial governors after Zanu PF argued that the appointments using the agreed formula of five MDC-T, four Zanu PF and one MDC-M could only be done simultaneously with the removal of sanctions.
One journalist asked if it would not be wise to remove the restrictions, which Canning said only affected one in every 70 000 of Zimbabwe’s population and 35 companies, as this would test Zanu PF’s commitment to fully implement the necessary and essential reforms agreed on in the GPA. The reporter then suggested that if Zanu PF failed to comply, then the EU could still re-impose the sanctions.
“We will not seek to argue that particular elements in the GPA should hold up other areas of progress. There should be a difference between economic sanctions and restrictive sanctions,” Canning said.
The EU is meeting in February to discuss the renewal of sanctions.


Faith Zaba

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