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No Bribe Ever Suggested, Say Global Witness, PAC

Jun 28, 2010 11:21 AM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... Kimberley Process (KP) Civil Society members Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) categorically rejected allegations that they offered to support Zimbabwe’s bid to resume diamond exports in exchange for a 1 percent cut of the profits. The bribe allegation surfaced at the end of the week-long meeting of KP delegates in Tel Aviv, where Zimbabwe’s compliance with the KP Certification Scheme’s (KPCS) minimum requirements was the subject of great debate.

“We reject outright this malicious and unsubstantiated allegation. At no point did any of the nongovernmental organizations at the meeting make any kind of offer of conditional support for exports," said Annie Dunnebacke, a campaigner at Global Witness. "The violence that continues to plague Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields — and the government’s blatant disregard for KP rules — indisputably signify that no exports should take place now.”

On Sunday, Zimbabwean newspaper The Sunday Mail quoted the country's mines minister, Obert Mpofu, who led Zimbabwe’s delegation at the Tel Aviv meeting, as saying that Global Witness and PAC approached him with the “money-for-support” proposal, which he rejected as “extortion.” 

Global Witness reported that "He said that the groups 'wanted 1 percent of our sales from Chiadzwa for their operations' and that in return, they 'would lobby for the endorsement of our diamonds.'” 

“This is a cynical and amoral attempt by Minister Mpofu to distract from the organized smuggling and human rights abuses being carried out by state institutions in direct contravention of KP minimum requirements and from his efforts and those of his ZANU-PF cronies to capture the country’s diamond wealth for their own personal benefit,” said Alan Martin from PAC. “The KP managed to salvage some of its credibility last week by refusing to endorse a resumption of exports from Marange. Zimbabwe seems intent upon damaging the scheme further with this latest slur.”

The campaigners said that the source of the rumor was likely to have been a late-night brainstorming session during which an idea was floated of using 1 percent of any future diamond sales to create a protection fund for Zimbabwean civil society. There was never any suggestion that this money would be serve as a reward for allowing exports to resume before the situation on the ground had improved.

“The idea was never formally put on the negotiation table by civil society groups or anyone else and at no point in the informal discussions was it posited as a condition for the resumption of diamond exports,” said Martin. “During his time in Tel Aviv, Minister Mpofu repeatedly showed a troubling disregard for the truth. The latest example appears to be his suggestion that civil society directly proposed this unethical exchange to him.”

Global Witness' Dunnebacke added, “Zimbabwean civil society activists are routinely intimidated and suppressed. For example, Farai Maguwu, the director of the Centre for Research and Development, is still being held in detention as a result of his brave and important work exposing abuses and smuggling in Marange. His plight amply demonstrates the need for greater protection and support for civil society in Zimbabwe. The authorities should let him go.”

Mpofu has stated that Zimbabwe will resume rough exports with or without any outside influence or approval.

"Campaigners warned that this would pose a significant challenge to the scheme’s membership, who would have to be vigilant in ensuring that blood diamonds did not enter the international market," according to the NGOs' joint statement.

LH

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Tags: Blood Diamonds, Compliance, Government, Jeff Miller, Kimberley Process, Zimbabwe
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