Cape Town - South Africa, the incoming chair of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), has urged the international community to support Zimbabwe’s efforts to benefit from its rich diamond resources, saying the country’s status as a major gem producer cannot be ignored.
According to a Herald online report, SA Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu implored KPCS members during a meeting in the US to "stand together as a family and support initiatives to ensure that emerging economies effectively reap the benefit of the exploitation of their diamond resources".
"I recently had the honour of addressing executives from the diamond industry during Zimbabwe’s Diamond Conference hosted at Victoria Falls in November 2012. The conference sought to explore the changing dynamics of the industry and to explore modalities to best enable Zimbabwe to optimise exploitation of its rich diamond resources," she said.
Graft, torture and murder
Accused of being opaque, corrupt and murderous, Zimbabwe's diamond sector is struggling to polish its image.
The country is home to the Marange diamond fields - one of Africa's largest - and has the potential to supply 25% of the world's diamonds. Yet very few investors have been forthcoming, as the sector has become synonymous with graft, torture and murder.
Rights groups say 200 people were killed in 2008 at Marange when the Zimbabwean army and anti-riot police cleared small-scale miners.
Natural resource extraction watchdogs accuse President Robert Mugabe's party of funnelling profits to senior military officers and party leaders as hush money.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti, a member of the anti-Mugabe MDC party, recently complained that of the $600m in diamond revenues expected this year, only $46m has materialised.
He admits a "parallel government" may be raking in much of the cash.