Much has been said, written and reported on the Zimbabwe diamonds; more specifically the Marange diamonds. However, this discourse has so far been characterized by hyperbolic vilification and a calamitous atrophy of critical analysis. This being the case, a number of issues merit closer attention. Among these are: the facts about the Zimbabwean diamonds; the campaign against the Zimbabwean diamonds; the humanitarian and human rights pretext; the economics of the Zimbabwean diamonds; the Kimberly Process and the futility of the absolute consensus approach and the options available to the Zimbabwean authorities.
The Facts about Diamond Mine Ownership in Africa
Facts are at times more bizarre than fiction. A case in point is that of the pattern of the ownership of diamond mines in Africa. For the record, diamonds are mined in South Africa, Botswana, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. In all these countries, diamond mines are owned by consortia of predominantly international companies. It is tempting to list all diamond mines in Africa and their respective owners but due to space constraints, this temptation shall be resisted. The inquisitive reader is referred to the website http://www.diamonds-are-forever.org.uk/
where he may find a catalogue of all diamond mines in Africa, their location and owners. The exception to this pattern is the Marange diamonds. The ownership of these diamonds deposit is subject to a court case between an international mining company ARC and the Zimbabwean government. If the Zimbabwean government prevails, as it is poised to, the Marange diamond mines will occupy the unique position of being the only diamond mines in the world that are wholly, totally, and absolutely to all intends and purposes; in the hands of indigenous African people. Although this may not be obvious at first sight, the fact of the matter is that the ownership of these mineral deposits can never be separated from the struggle for the total economic emancipation of the black people of African extraction.
The Campaign against the Zimbabwean Diamonds
The campaign against the sale of Zimbabwean diamonds by the Zimbabwean government has been concerted, robust but often immoral and insincere. This campaign has been spearheaded by some non governmental organizations and countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada and the European Union block. These countries also finance the same non governmental organizations at the forefront of vilifying the Zimbabwean diamonds. There are two important facts that need to be highlighted about this campaign. These are the timing and relationship between the Zimbabwe government and the campaigners.
Before the Zimbabwe government moved in to restore order in Marange, mining there was in a state of chaos. The sheer force of numbers of uncontrollable non state actors; among them villagers, panners, and foreigners; that descended upon Marange literally threw the village into a sad state of disequilibrium which in itself was not only a security threat but against the principles and tenets of the Kimberly Process. Many of the present campaigners against the Marange diamonds and nationals from countries financing these campaigns benefited in no small way from this anarchy.
It is instructive that as long as the anarchy persisted, no one raised a finger against the Marange diamonds. However, as soon as the government moved in, the discordant voices soon reached a crescendo and the anti Marange machinery hit the overdrive. The passivity of these organizations at a time when the activities in Marange were patently not in accordance with the Kimberly Process principles; and the timing of their new found zeal and self righteousness when the government moved on sight; is not coincidental. Before the Zimbabwean government intervened, Marange had all the promises of the utopian dream to the beneficiaries of this illicit trade; most of whom were from the very countries and organizations that now cry loudest against these diamonds. The intervention of the Zimbabwean government turned what was a utopian dream into a dystopian nightmare.
All the countries that are campaigning against the sale of the Marange diamonds have for a decade now been openly in diplomatic conflict with the Zimbabwean government under president Mugabe. Their hatred of this government has been palpable, while their attitude has been that of downright condescension. There is nothing new to their anti-Mugabe, and by extension anti-Zimbabwe slant. There is also nothing novel about the strategies and tactics being employed. These same tactics were used to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth.
Before the facts of the campaign can be interrogated robustly; the mere fact that the campaigners have a credibility deficit does not help the spurious grounds upon which their campaign is predicated.
The Humanitarian and Human Rights Pretext
The argument that is often proffered against the Zimbabwean diamonds is that there are; or more precisely have been in the past; human rights abuses. We will leave the content of the human rights debate to others because that is not the major thrust of this discussion. However, a number of issues are worthy highlighting. First, all the organizations and people that are proponents of this argument are not human rights experts. The same is true for all the participants in the Kimberly Process including the civil society representatives. The proponents of this argument are therefore speaking outside their present province of competence. Second, the chairman of the Kimberly Process-Bernard Ersau-asserts that “there is no evidence of human rights abuses.” Third, the Kimberly Process itself does not deal with issues of human right abuses. It can therefore not arrogate to itself powers and mandates that it does not have, especially in a specialized area such human rights where there are many competent statutory bodies. Even then the human rights argument is more a historical argument to the extent that most of the reports are based on incidents that reportedly occurred in 2008. The argument that the Zimbabwe diamonds should not be sold based on these reports is as inane an argument as arguing that Sierra Leone should not sale its diamonds because of the infractions observed during Foday Sankoh’s rebels’ reign of terror in Freetown. The Kimberly Process was not formed to deal with matters of human rights abuses or humanitarian issues generally, and neither has it morphed into a body with expertise in this area ; hence to pretend to do so is to pull off a gigantic con trick.
The human rights and humanitarian argument is just a pretext. Henry Kissinger, in his book –Diplomacy- eloquently and lucidly traced the origins of this strategy in American foreign policy. He argued forcefully that the humanitarian excuse was perfected by Ronald Reagan as a strategy to undermine the Soviet Union and communism, and since then America has employed it to undermine governments elsewhere. It is difficult to context against that assertion that clearly this is the same strategy at play now in this discourse about the Zimbabwean diamonds.
The Futility of the Kimberly Process Absolute Consensus Approach
The Kimberly process operates on the basis of absolute consensus which entails all participants agreeing on a position. Given the mutual dislike between the civil society representatives on the Kimberly Process, their western allies and the Zimbabwe government, absolute consensus will remain a mirage. Expecting the Zimbabwean authorities to continue mining and stock piling its diamonds, given the many competing interests in the Zimbabwean economy, is like asking a starving child to keep guard of a pot of stew.
It is now a matter of public record that the Tel Aviv meeting could not reach a consensus on the certification of the Zimbabwe diamond. That Zimbabwe meets the minimum requirements for certification was not disputed. However, certain members were still not satisfied. In an attempt to break the impasse, the chairman called for a vote which went overwhelmingly in Zimbabwe’s favor; but because of the absolute consensus principle, a final decision could not be made on the basis of that vote. What has been disputed publicly is what transpired after the stalemate. There are reports of attempts to bribe the Zimbabwean delegation.Not surprisingly these reports have been rebutted. However, what is surprising is that the non governmental organizations involved have issued a statement to the effect that they proposed that Zimbabwe be certified on condition that 1% of the proceeds be channeled to the civil society to strengthen their activities in Zimbabwe just for brainstorming purposes. 1% of a multi billion dollar projected annual income is more than 100 million dollars.
If the NGOs’ statement is to be believed, then they were essentially demanding that the cash strapped Zimbabwean people cede this much to them for activities that will not add any value to the Zimbabwean economy. Such an intimation is obscene in the extreme. Furthermore, a list of the NGOs participating on the Kimberly Process reveals that there is only one from Zimbabwe; the one run by a certain Farai Maguwu, who is currently in custody in Zimbabwean cells. If the 1% is to go to Zimbabwean civil society groups, then Zimbabwe would be giving millions of dollars to what is essentially a one man organization. If the money were to go to foreign NGOs which are sworn enemies of the state, then Zimbabwe would be engaging in assisted suicide. Whichever way one looks at it-attempted bribe or brainstorming idea-the 1% suggestion is obscene.
The Economics of the Zimbabwe Diamond and the Game Changer
Uncontested reports indicate that Zimbabwe has more than US$1.6 billion stock piled and ready to be sold. Estimates indicate that annually Zimbabwe will very soon earn billions of dollars from the Marange diamond fields. This will make Zimbabwe one of the leading diamond producers in the world. The infusion of such an amount to the economy has the potential to dramatically alter Zimbabwe’s economic landscape. The change in the economic landscape will shift the contours of the political game. The diamond is therefore in every aspect of the word a political game changer. The issue is not that the diamond will affect the economic fortunes of individuals, but that it will literally impact on the political fortunes of certain formulations. None can contest that the Zimbabwean diamonds if properly managed can become an instrument for economic development. The argument against the diamond is therefore not about the utilitarian good, but about the survival of political parties whose stars shine brightly when there is a dysfunctional economy.
Zimbabwe has an option to sell its diamonds outside the Kimberly Process system. Such a move might result in the flooding of diamonds on the western markets. This will inevitably affect the diamond prices negatively. Those, in the Kimberly Process, that are resisting the certification of the Zimbabwean diamond may actually be courting unintended consequences. What matters is not whether Zimbabwe sells its diamonds or not; or whether Zimbabwe remains part of the Kimberly Process or not but what really matters is how Zimbabwe conducts its sells. A process characterized with comity, integrity and transparency will obviate all the arguments and controversy currently prevailing.
By George Chingarande.
George Chingarande is a Zimbabwean reseacher, author, business consultant and newspaper columnist for a number of media houses in Southern Africa.
Comment on this article!