Biti Remains Steadfast That Diamonds Will be Sold
In a letter written to the U.S. assistant secretary of treasury, Charles Collyns, Zimbabwe’s finance minister, Tendai Biti, decried the U.S.’s placement of two Zimbabwe companies, Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources, on its sanction list.
Marange Resources is run by Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), while Mbada Diamonds is a joint venture between the ZMDC and South African-based scrap metal firm New Reclamation Group. ZMDC also faces U.S. sanctions.
Underscoring the need for Zimbabwe to profit from its Marange diamonds, the sale of which was approved by the Kimberley Process this past November, Biti said, ”Zimbabwe is a poor fragile economy and therefore it must be allowed to sell and benefit from its resources.”
He did however, admit that the country had problems dealing with illegal diamond activities, but stated the Zimbabwe’s approval by the Kimberley Process would allow it to stem those activities and legitimately prosper from its diamond resources. ”Diamonds have been sold illicitly and illegally from Zimbabwe. There have been challenges of accountability and lack of transparency when Zimbabwe was outside the Kimberley Process. Selling under Kimberley Process Certification Scheme would therefore take away any opaqueness or illicitness.”
Biti accused the U.S. of being hypocritical in not allowing the sanctioned companies a chance to plead their case, and of undermining the Kinshasa compromise that gave approval to the export of Marange diamonds. ”The two companies and Zimbabwe should have firstly been allowed to put their case forward before the punitive action was taken. Due process of the law is guaranteed in Amendment 14 of your Constitution. Secondly, to the extent that normalcy had been restored by the Kishasa compromise, the two companies ought to have been given space and a chance to operate under the new regime of compliance.”
Biti went on to add that the “U.S. decision undermines the Kimberley Process and its chairmanship,” which the U.S. now holds and he remained defiant that U.S sanctions would not stop the sale of Zimbabwe’s diamonds. ”Your decision will not stop the mining that is a sovereign issue covered by international law. More importantly, it will not stop the sale of diamonds. All it does is encourage more opaqueness and underwriting of the diamond industry.”