Millions of dollars' worth of legal diamonds from a Chinese-Zimbabwean company were set to be put on sale on Friday, following the decision in November by the industry watchdog, the Kimberley Process (KP), to lift a ban on sales from Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields, despite objections from human rights groups.
A letter seen by the Guardian, written by the general manager of Anjin Investment, Jiang Zhaoyao, invited the chairperson of the KP working group to attend Anjin's first tender, from December 2 to 5 at its sorting centre at Harare Airport.
It did not mention the quantity or value of the diamonds, but a report in the state-owned Herald newspaper in November put Anjin's stockpile at more than 2-million carats. On Thursday, a separate source claimed a KP monitor had estimated the haul at 3.6-million carats. Marange stones are considered to fetch an average of $80 per carat, which could push their net value up to nearly $300-million. This may rise further now that the stones are KP-approved and legal.
Anjin is a 50-50 joint venture between the Zimbabwean and Chinese governments. Press reports have alleged that senior managers at Anjin are also high ranking officers of the Zimbabwe national army. The campaign group Global Witness obtained company records showing Zimbabwe's brigadier-general Charles Tarumbwa, named on several sanctions lists, as a major shareholder.
In March this year, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai criticised corruption and a lack of transparency in the diamond mining sector. "These include Anjin, which has been mining for more than 18 months in partnership with the police and the army and has not remitted any cent to Treasury," he said.
Military stake allegations
The KP ban was imposed in 2009 following allegations that Zimbabwean military officers had a stake in the industry and were diverting funds to President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.
In November, the Herald hailed the lifting of the ban as a "decisive victory in the struggle against Western economic hegemony" and reported that Zimbabwe stood to earn more than $3-billion a year from the three Marange mines.
But Mike Davis of Global Witness, who visited the site of Anjin's operations last year, said on Thursday: "Based on evidence we have seen, it is clear that Zanu-PF hardliners are intending to use Marange's diamonds to finance their efforts to cling on to power. Whereas three years ago the game plan, in terms of seizing Marange's riches, was sending in the military to shoot a couple ... hundred people, the approach is now more sophisticated. It centres on joint ventures like Anjin, which [consists] of unscrupulous foreign firms and Zanu-PF stalwarts."
He added: "The Kimberley Process's response has been to bury its head in the sand and throw away any residual credibility it had as a guarantor that diamonds do not finance abuses. The fact that Anjin's operation may be superficially impressive is missing the point about the imminent risk of diamond-fuelled violence in Zimbabwe."
The Zimbabwe government wholly owns another mining company, Marange Resources, and has a 50% stake in Mbada, which it co-owns with South African investors.
Tiseke Kasambala, senior Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, said: "We can't comment specifically on Anjin because we haven't conducted any research on [its] operations. However, we don't support the KP's decision to allow the exports of diamonds by Anjin, Mbada and Marange Resources because the government has failed to comply with the KP's recommendations under the joint work plan, including an end to smuggling, licensing artisanal miners and demilitarisation." -- © Guardian News and Media 2011