Zim PM urges transparent diamond trade
Arda Transau - Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday called for openness in the country's nascent diamond trade, getting under way after the lifting of a global ban over rights abuses.
"We must show transparency in the way we exploit this resource, the way we market it and the way we benefit for all of our very wide-range challenges we face as a country," Tsvangirai told journalists as he wrapped up a tour of mines in the Marange diamond fields.
Zimbabwe expects to rake in $600m from diamond sales this year, after the global watchdog Kimberley Process lifted a ban that was imposed over military abuses in the fields.
The military is under President Robert Mugabe's control in Zimbabwe's fragile power-sharing government, and despite fears that diamond profits could be siphoned off, Tsvangirai said the gems should be a blessing for Zimbabwe.
"Some people have turned oil discoveries into a successful economic take-off for their countries," he said.
"But Africa has always experienced a curse when it comes to the discovery of diamonds. I think we cannot say the same for Zimbabwe. I don't think the discovery of diamonds is a curse. I think it's a blessing for our country."
Tsvangirai has said the government needs diamond revenue to rebuild the nation. Since the unity government was formed three years ago, the economy has begun growing again, after contracting for years.
Human rights abuses
But the government is struggling to increase salaries for its workers who staged stayaway protests last month to push for a doubling of their salaries and improved working conditions.
Human Rights Watch alleges that Mugabe's army killed more than 200 people two years after the 2006 discovery of the diamond fields in an operation to clear small-scale miners from the area.
The Kimberley Process, founded to stop the trade in so-called "blood diamonds", has come under fire from activists for being soft on abuses in Marange.
The United States in 2008 slapped sanctions on two firms mining in the eastern region, Marange Resources and Mbada, which are mining at the scene of alleged human rights abuses, while powerful US-based diamond trading group Rapaport has boycotted all Marange gems.
All the firms are jointly owned by the Zimbabwean government and foreign investors.