Zimbabwe Diamond Auction Gets Underway in Harare

An auction of Zimbabwe’s Chiadzwa diamonds got underway in Harare on Friday the auction is expected to see about half a million carats on sale during the four day event, with rough estimates pegging the profits at around US$300 million. The stones are part of a stockpile from one of the firms that has a licence to mine at Chiadzwa, Anjin, which is a joint venture between Zimbabwe and China.

The KP membership has until recently been unable to reach agreement on whether to allow Zimbabwe back into trade circles, with mainly Western KP members raising concerns about human rights violations and smuggling. These were issues that the KP itself had ordered Zimbabwe to sort out back in 2009, when it was faced with either banning the country completely or giving it a deadline to reform. The KP chose to avoid an official ban and instead suspended Zim from trade until it fell in line with international trade standards.

The KP’s apparent inability to force Zimbabwe to fall in line under Western political pressure is still not deterring the country’s enemies from using other means, mainly a media campaign aimed at casting aspersions on the country’s mining industry. This campaign was continued this week when Mike Davis from campaign group Global Witness told a UK’s newspaper: “Based on evidence we have seen, it is clear that ZANU PF hardliners are intending to use (Chiadzwa) diamonds to finance their efforts to cling on to power.” Davis was quoted as saying that the plan by ZANU PF centres on the joint ventures it has established at Chiadzwa, “which consist of unscrupulous foreign firms and ZANU PF stalwarts.”

Meanwhile Zimbabwe’s share of revenue from the Anjin sales are believed to already be earmarked to pay off a S$98 million foreign loan that was used to upgrade the country’s telecommunications security infrastructure, called the Robert Mugabe School of Intelligence, outside Harare. The loan was approved earlier this year . Finance Minister Tendai Biti last week pegged almost 20% of the 2012 Budget on diamond sales, saying he has been “assured” that at least US$600 million will reach government coffers.