Monitor to help Zim export diamonds

HARARE - A key step has been made toward Zimbabwe exporting its diamonds from the controversial Chiadzwa claims as authorities said yesterday they had accepted the nomination of a prominent South African figure as monitor on behalf of an international trade watchdog.

HARARE - A key step has been made toward Zimbabwe exporting its diamonds from the controversial Chiadzwa claims as authorities said yesterday they had accepted the nomination of a prominent South African figure as monitor on behalf of an international trade watchdog.

Zimbabwe's mines minister Obert Mpofu was quoted in the state-run Herald newspaper as saying the government had accepted Abbey Chikane, head of the South African Diamond Board and a former chairman of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP), as monitor for the eastern diamond fields.

A meeting of the KP, made up of diamond-producing countries, representatives of the world diamond trade and civil society bodies in November had ruled that Chiadzwa diamonds could only be exported after being certified by a KP-appointed monitor.

The KP laid down the condition after the organisation received reports of brutal military control over the fields and rampant exploitation and smuggling from the alluvial find, estimated by experts to be the biggest in a century.

The appointment of a monitor was blocked for four months by disputes between KP and Harare over the names put forward by both sides.

Chikane is also a director of the World Diamond Council, which has been highly critical of Zimbabwe's lack of transparency in Chiadzwa, and accused the KP of not being firm in its dealings with Zimbabwe.

In terms of a "joint work plan" set out by the KP at the November meeting, the monitor is to have "full and unhindered access" to all aspects of Chiadzwa output, the report said.

Analysts saw, however, that Zimbabwe still falls short of meeting its obligations under the work plan, including the withdrawal of the military from the site and unchecked smuggling.

There are also questions over two South African companies that have been awarded licences to mine the diamonds in a joint venture with the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation. - Sapa-dpa

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