Zimbabwe court approves 'blood diamond' sale

27th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Zimbabwe high court has approved the sale of diamonds from a field plagued by human rights abuses, as Harare moved to defy the Kimberley Process, state-run media reported Tuesday.

The sale of the Marange diamonds belonging to British-owned African Consolidated Resources was blocked last year by the international regulator after it found that Zimbabwe had failed to comply with human rights standards.

Harare initially stopped the sale pending authorisation from local authorities and the Kimberley Process -- set up to prevent the sale of so-called blood diamonds, which are used to fund rebel movements.

However, the state-run Herald newspaper reported Tuesday that the high court has now approved the sale of 129,000 carats of diamonds belonging to African Consolidated Resources (ACR).

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu reiterated Harare's determination to defy the Kimberley Process, even though Zimbabwe is a member of the group.

"We are going to benefit from our diamonds whether with the KP (Kimberley Process) or not," he said, according to the state-run New Ziana news agency.

Mpofu also claimed that the "country's detractors" were manipulating the process in order to block Zimbabwe from benefiting from diamond sales.

"That is why our detractors always throw spanners in the wheels when we want to move forward," he said.

Mpofu said the government will comply with the high court.

"We will abide by the court's ruling," Mpofu told AFP after a cabinet meeting.

"This is what the country has been waiting for. These resources belong to the people of Zimbabwe," Mpofu added. "These people (Westerners) have clearly taken their sanctions agenda to another level."

Mpofu could however not state when the sale will take place, but pointed out that the southern African country will ask police to investigate ACR management for buying diamonds on the black market.

He said the country had in stock 300,000 carats of diamonds that have been mined by two firms currently contracted by the government in Marange.

Last year, government entered into a joint venture with two South African firms to mine diamonds in Marange.

"We cannot keep or store another 129,000 carats of diamonds, but we are going to ask the police to find out why a public listed company like ACR was buying diamonds from panners (artisanal miners).

"We will wait for the KP monitor to come, but we cannot wait for ever."

In February, the Supreme Court ordered two government firms to stop operations on the ACR fields. The case was brought to court by ACR in a bid to win back its mining rights which had been suspended in 2006.

Since the suspension, the Zimbabwean government and the London listed ACR have been in a legal fight over the ownership of the diamond fields.

In March, a Kimberly Process investigator visited the country to determine if human rights standards are being met in the country's Marange diamond fields.

The investigator found that while procedures looked good on paper, they were not being implemented. Zimbabwe was given until June to fix the abuses.

© 2010 AFP

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