Belgium diamond group criticised after confessing to ZANU PF lobbying

The Antwerp Diamond Exchange building

By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
18 March 2014

Belgium has again faced criticism from concerned Zimbabweans after an official from the Antwerp diamond centre admitted they lobbied on ZANU PF’s behalf for the removal of targeted sanctions.

This was done to facilitate the sale of Chiadzwa diamonds, a trade that until last year was restricted because of the targeted measures in place against the Robert Mugabe regime.

Antwerp World Diamond Council (AWDC) chief executive Ari Epstein told a recent Parliamentary meeting in Harare that he “made a commitment” to former Zim Mines Minister Obert Mpofu to lobby for the removal of the European restrictions, in exchange for the sale of Chiadzwa diamonds in Belgium.

“I made a commitment to the minister to help lift sanctions on Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and I worked extremely hard to keep these promises,” said Epstein in an address to the two-day parliamentary seminar in Harare.

Last year, just weeks after the hotly disputed elections in Zimbabwe, the European Union (EU) lifted its restrictions from the ZMDC, paving the way for the international sale of the country’s gems. An almost total lifting of the measures then followed last month, amid criticism that the EU was giving credence to a flawed electoral process in Zimbabwe.

James Mupfumi, the Acting Director of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), said that Belgium was thinking “only of its business interests” in its campaign for the removal of the targeted sanctions. He told SW Radio Africa that the measures were used as a “tool” for years by officials in the Zim diamond sector, who were busy “siphoning this resource.”

“The sanctions were used as a tool by interested people in the sector who were benefiting from the resource for years, because those diamonds were being sold illicitly. So the sanctions mantra was being used to cover-up the siphoning of that resource. For Belgium, this campaign to remove the measures was a way to be allowed to trade formally (with Zimbabwe), even though diamonds were traded secretly for years,” Mupfumi said.

Belgium meanwhile has expressed concern that despite its best efforts to lobby on ZANU PF’s behalf, the party-led government is now looking elsewhere to sell diamonds.

The government has said it wants to sell its gems at the Dubai and Shanghai diamond centres to accurately gauge their worth, but the AWDC has said this would ‘betray’ its commitment.

“The export of Marange diamonds were resumed, unfortunately not to Antwerp but to the rest of the world,” said Epstein in Harare. “Why, when the sanctions are lifted are you imposing sanctions on yourselves?”

Robert Mhlanga, chairman of Mbada diamonds last week told Parliament that he was opposed to EU diamond sales, describing the auctions as “appeasing Zimbabwe’s EU foes.”

The CRD’s Mupfumi meanwhile has joined calls for all mining activities at Chiadzwa to be stopped, until a full audit of the operations there are completed. He said a transparent process that will ultimately result in the adoption of best practice policies was the only way forward.

“We are grudgingly welcoming the moves by the Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa to root out corruption. But we need more than grandstanding. An audit for example was done on Marange Resources, but the results of that are still being kept by the President’s Office,” Mupfumi explained.

He added: “We need a transparent audit and we simply want the best policies followed, so this resource can benefit Zimbabweans. Until then, all mining must be stopped.”

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3 Responsesto “Belgium diamond group criticised after confessing to ZANU PF lobbying”

  1. Yepec says:

    Fake, Chimbwido Warvet given the confessions of Epstein of Antwerp Diamond World Council (Unomuti njuzu kana kuti dzimudzangara), you are bound to accept his lobbing on behalf of and the lifting of the Marange diamonds trade within the EU countries. Per this previous stance, how can he be Zanu PF’s friend and by extension yours? In other words, how can you accept the friendship of an entity that you say is not a Human Being?

    From the article, readers now know the basis and motivation of the “sanction mantra” and reason why all of a sudden, Obert Mpofu, became one of the richest man in Ziimbabwe. Also, with a few exceptions, why most of Zanu PF’s big wigs are involved in corruption which is against national interests while they are busy personally lining up their pockets.

    Since the Antwerp Diamond World Council, has to sell its gems at Dubai, in India or at Shanghai, the price of the Marange diamonds is likely to go down as most of the Party bosses are involved in smuggling to these same places..

  2. Wilbert Mukori says:

    Zanu PF’s commitment to AWDC was that Zimbabwe will sell her diamonds in Belgium when the sanctions are lifted.

    The sanction against ZMDC were lifted in August 2013 a few weeks after the rigged elections. ZMDC did not keep its promise and has been selling its diamonds in Dubai and Shanghai instead.

    The story confirms that the EU has not been honest about lifting the sanctions because there had been “positive evolution,” as Ambassador Aldo Dell’Ariccia claimed. It was AWDC Chief Executive Ari Epstein who had “worked extremely hard” to have the sanctions lifted regardless of the retrogressive changes in Zimbabwe.

    Of course AWDC is very disappointed that after all it’s hard work the Mugabe regime did not honour its part of the promise to sell its diamonds in Belgium.

    The Belgians should not expect any sympathy from any Zimbabwean. After all when Mugabe failed to honour his promise to the people of Zimbabwe on a more serious matter of holding free, fair and credible elections, AWDC’s hard work was make sure Mugabe’s vote rigging was dismissed it as unimportant.

    AWDC placed a greater value on profits in the trade of our diamonds over the basic right of 12 million Zimbabweans to a meaningful say in the governance of their own country.

    May be that is why it is said those who dine with the devil must use a long spoon. A short spoon will mean you will be too close for a quick getaway if you should need to. AWDC and in turn EU got to close to Mugabe only to the tyrant to betray them and it is too late to reinstate the sanctions without being seen as petty and vindictive!

    • Chimbwido Warvet says:

      Wilbert don’t be daft. It is not just a matter of giving the nation’s diamonds to Belgium. It is question of whether the price is right or otherwise. If the country gets more from the Arabs, no diamonds should not be traded at Antwerp at all. Get your facts right and stop daydreaming young man.
      It does not matter whether anyone lobbied for the lifting of the illegal economic sanctions on Zimbabwe if the prize offered for our diamonds at Antwerp is ridiculous. The Belgians should not be seen as bribing Zimbabwe but to engage our country in business ventures that is worthwhile. There is no free lunch, not even free cup of tea. It is business as usual. You can advise my friend Yepec not to fool around.

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