Zimbabwe's Blood Diamonds: A Call to Industry Producers

Julie Kalt Melissa Karp Amy Calfas Justin McCallum Nancy Gleason

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Interview Participants
As a member of the diamond production industry, we recognize the promise Zimbabwe holds with its 8 billion dollars in diamond deposits. However, the country is more of a dark garnet than shining diamond in our future. Eliminating large agricultural production centers in 2000 devastated the economy displacing thousands and deepening public grievance over severe hyper-inflation and mass unemployment.
These problems were exacerbated by corruption and the leader Robert Mugabe as well as the country’s violent transition to power-sharing government. Zimbabwe’s instability is hurting the potential for a thriving mining industry. As industry leaders we must stop this nationalization of bad mining
and prevent violent practices that threaten the integrity of our product and the stability of our operations. Fortunately, Murowa Diamonds owned by Australian producer Rio Tinto is a beacon of hope in southwestern Zimbabwe. The company invests in employee retention and community stability by hiring local workers, building classrooms, refurbishing health clinics,
providing training for farmers, and offering voluntary AIDS testing and counseling services. On the other side of the country, the Marange mines tell a far different story. Ownership and control of its operations are veiled in corruption. The government initially used its discovery to foster a diamond rush and people, desperate for money, migrated there en masse.
Beginning in 2007, armed government forces began to assume control and organize miners into profitable syndicates, but control of the mine took a dangerous turn in 2008 when the Joint Operations Command, the militaristic arm of Mugabe’s regime, killed over 200 people enforcing systematic killing, torture, rape, and violent displacement that continues today.
This illicit behavior is endorsing Present Mugabe, his party’s activities, and JOC’s military operations to protect Mugabe’s leadership while destabilizing the power-sharing government. According to partnership Africa-Canada, the current interpretation of the Kimberley Process fails to recognize the political realities of Zimbabwe.
These political elites are intimately tied to the Joint Operation Command and as such constitute a rebel movement. This loophole allows for rebel movements to hide behind seemingly legitimate governments and threaten the stability of insecure countries where many of all mines are located. As long as we allow this abuse to continue our credibility and consumer confidence in our product will deteriorate.
Industry leaders must take the lead to reform the Kimberley process. Unless diamonds are actually conflict-free, the work companies like Rio Tinto and Murowa Diamonds are doing is futile. First, we recommend the Kimberley process needs to equate government abuses with rebel group abuses.
As the Zimbabwe case shows, the JOC, although a technically government sponsored regime is operating like a rebel group. Second, the UN Security Council should increase efforts to make sanctions more selective, better targeted, and more rigorously enforced. Third, industries operating in these countries should unite
and use their power to take a stand against abusive governments through organizations like the World Diamond Council. Finally, developing and improving social programs within our mining communities, as we’ve seen, is a necessary preventative measure. It ensures stability and prevents illegitimate groups from taking advantage of vulnerable populations and mismanaging valuable resources.
Ultimately, reforming the Kimberley Process will provide opportunities for cooperation within the diamond industry as well as prevent and deter future resource conflicts. Our fair practice will serve as an example and encourage a culture of cooperate and political accountability across the globe.