To Cow a Dictator: Zimbabwe and Blood Diamonds

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 3/18/2010 12:06:00 AM
It is heartening to know that corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts can work on even some of the most despotic regimes with the worst financial management. For those of you who have yet to come across it, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) grew out of a United Nations effort to staunch the flow of so-called "blood diamonds" in international trade. That is, its intention was to certify diamonds as not being sold by militants to finance wars--especially those from Africa. While third world governments are not usually fans of measures largely devised in the West, KPCS has largely succeeded because even despotic regimes generally welcome efforts to quell armed movements and blockage of trade in diamonds. Just look at its globe-spanning participant list.

As a child of the Global South, I have long held a keen interest in third world solidarity. While he is regarded nowadays as a tyrant and even a laughingstock by the West, I have always viewed Robert Mugabe in less Bushian black-or-white terms common to Anglo-Saxon commentators. Hard as it is to believe now, Comrade Bob was widely lauded as a pan-African hero in his heyday in the independence movement. That the intervening years have proven him no better at improving conditions in Zimbabwe is a real shame, but still. To paraphrase current PRC doctrine on Chairman Mao, Mugabe is 70% bad, 30% good. And, the more he clings on tenaciously to power, it seems the balance gets worse.

Now, there has been much blowback from the Zimbabwean government lately over the Kimberley Process trying to force Mugabe's hand in appointing a monitor over the Marange diamond fields. It's a long story but it basically goes like this: when De Beers' mining concession expired in 2006, another was given to British firm African Consolidated Resources (ACR). However, Mugabe's government has since declined granting ACR its rights to mine the area and has even set up rival interests. In the interim, opportunists began scouring the area. As a response, sponsored "security" forces have been implicated in human rights violations to solidify their grip on the region and make sure the cut flows in their direction. So, witnesses report beatings, torture, and worse.

A few weeks ago, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu mirrored Robert Mugabe's hardline stance on the Kimberley Process of, we'll go elsewhere if they won't accommodate us in light of a June 2010 deadline to shape up set by the Kimberley Process after finding much amiss in Marange, including the appointment of someone to monitor the situation:
Mines minister Obert Mpofu has reiterated government threats to pull out of the Kimberly Process (KP) if the body refuses to endorse the country’s bid to freely trade diamonds extracted from the disputed Marange fields. Allegations of human rights abuses and the claimed involvement of security services in the exploitation of the Marange diamonds in eastern Zimbabwe resulted in the country being brought before the KP, a joint government, industry and civil society initiative aimed at stemming trade in so-called “blood diamonds”.

Trade in diamonds produced from Marange has since been stopped and the country was given a June 2010 deadline to comply with a number of stringent requirements which include the appointment of a KP country monitor. However Mpofu told journalists at the Bulawayo Press Club that Zimbabwe would pull out of the Kimberly Process if government efforts to comply with its requirements are not endorsed.

"If the KP is unsatisfied with our efforts and says we have failed to comply with their requirements (and) bar us from diamond trade, we will not lose sleep. We are ready to just pull through and not lose anything. The KP does not own the diamond trade markets. Zimbabwe will pull out of the KP and sell its diamonds to those markets,” Mpofu said adding that membership of the organisation was in fact voluntary.

President Robert Mugabe also said recently that Zimbabwe would find other ways of trading its diamonds if the country continued to encounter problems with the Kimberly Process. Human rights organisations and sections of the global diamond industry have been pushing for the country’s suspension from the KP claiming that the Marange stones are being used to enrich government officials and fund rights abuses in the country.
But, more recently, the Mugabe-led government caved in, most likely fearing a ban of the sale of diamonds from the Marange diamond fields:
The guidelines include the demilitarisation of the diamond fields, which has not happened, with rights groups reporting that there is still strict military control of Chiadzwa and the villagers there. According to the guidelines there is also supposed to be an independent monitor in place to oversee the sale of all stones from Chiadzwa. Abbey Chikane, the head of the South African Diamond Board and a former Chairman of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, was finally appointed as a monitor for the diamond fields after four months of fighting over a suitable candidate.

Chikane arrived on Monday, and was expected to visit the Marange fields in the east of the country on Tuesday, the state-run Herald newspaper reported. Chikane has reportedly already met with mining ministry officials, as well as representatives of Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Miners, the firms given state authorisation to mine the diamond fields.
Meanwhile, the now-nefarious Mr. Mpofu has just been hauled before the Zimbabwean parliament to face suspicions of profiteering by Mugabe cronies in the governance vacuum:
Mpofu had for weeks refused to appear before the committee, insisting the issues they wanted to take up were the subject of litigation. But he finally relented after the Attorney General’s office confirmed that a refusal to testify to Parliament could result in legal charges. Economic Planning Minister Elton Mangoma confirmed the cabinet approved the controversial Marange deals though he said certain issues need a closer look.

Committee sources said Mpofu was quizzed over issues including an aborted January auction of 300,000 carats of diamonds, which was halted after the office of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai got wind of it. The sale had not been approved by Harare or by the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, which was scrutinizing diamonds from Marange due to alleged human rights abuses...

The state entity has said that since it began to exploit the Marange field in 2006 it has produced only 3,000 carats worth US$12 million. But the committee has determined that Mbada and Canadile have extracted 7.1 million carats of diamonds. The panel says evidence indicates Zimbabwe has lost millions to top officials.
CSR researchers should take note of features that make the Kimberley process successful where other efforts have not. Nearly universal buy-in from both diamond buying and selling countries due in no small part to self-interest has helped ensure even the most recalcitrant characters eventually walk the line. While there are some loopholes, KPCS is noticeably effective on the balance. Wouldn't it be nice if more UN initiatives were like this one?