Zimbabwe Given Permission to Hold Two Gem Sales, Minister Says

Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe has been given permission to hold two diamond auctions this year by the Kimberley Process, an international body set up to control the sale of conflict gems, Deputy Mines Minister Gift Chimanikire said.

The southern African nation can sell gems from the Marange diamond fields provided they were mined between 2006 and 2009, he said by phone today from the capital, Harare. “We’re working on the modalities for the sales now,” Chimanikire said.

The Kimberley Process was formed in 2002 by governments and the diamond industry to halt the sale of so-called blood diamonds, or gems used to finance conflict. Zimbabwe faces accusations of smuggling, rape and assault by its army and police at its Marange fields by rights groups including Global Witness and Human Rights Watch, claims the government denies.

Contact details for the Kimberley Process haven’t been updated since the secretariat moved from Jerusalem to the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this month, and the body hasn’t released a statement confirming the sales.

The latest gem sales will create a “dangerous precedent,” said Farai Magawu, director of the Center for Research and Development, a Zimbabwean diamond lobby group. The income from the sales could be used to “fund repression,” he said by phone from the eastern city of Mutare.

Hundreds of people have been killed at Marange, and many more have been beaten, raped and forced to mine for the army and police, Global Witness, a London-based rights group, said on June 14. New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that as many as 200 civilians may have been killed there by the military.

Zimbabwe held an auction of 300,000 carats of gems from Marange in September, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said in an interview in Seoul on Sept. 15. The sale came after the southern African nation sold 900,000 carats in August after the Kimberley Process approved the sale of a portion of the 4.5 million carats of gems in stock. A carat is a fifth of a gram.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Latham in Durban at blatham@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.net