Saga of blood diamonds

Book: The Fence

Book: The Fence

Author: Andrew Gray

Publisher: Human & Rousseau

Reviewer: Getrude Makhafola

Andrew Gray presents a narrative rendition of blood diamonds. He paints an interesting fictional picture as Brano, the biggest diamond company in the world, launches an investigation into one of its best trader's activities.

Trusted with this momentous task is lawyer, Jan Klein, who ruffles a few feathers as he tackles the investigation.

For years, political instability in some African countries has been fuelled by "blood diamonds".

The illegally-traded precious stones are referred to as "blood or conflict diamonds" because they are acquired by force. The mined rough stones find their way on to European and American markets, resulting in huge profits for whoever is in control.

The money is in turn used by rebels and corrupt officials to finance armed conflicts.

Countries such as the DRC, Sierra Leone and Angola have for years been casualties as their precious resources were used to purchase arms by rebels such as Jonas Savimbi's Unita.

Brano traders have had multimillion-rand transactions with Unita, which used to control most of the diamond-rich areas in Angola.

With Unita on the run because of the looming political transformation, Brano re-evaluates its entire business as it prepares to take control of one of Angola's diamond-rich areas while doing everything it can to portray a squeaky-clean image to the Angolan authorities.

But first it has to convince shareholders in London by presenting them with a report on its profit-generating activities. The company's head of human resources Piet Visser, is the most vocal as he uses his experience and inside knowledge to analyse Brano's talented traders.

Almost all the characters have a military background and it became too much to read about their combat experiences back when they were youngsters, while sitting over drinks at a bar or at Brano's offices in Johannesburg.

Gray's approach to one of Africa's problems is readable. He paints an interesting picture of how far companies would go to make sure that profits keep pouring in, regardless of the casualties - mostly poor and innocent people. The novel is well written, but has too many voices and one ends up losing track of who the narrator is.