Harare - The European Union offered Thursday to help Zimbabwe
address mounting concerns over graft in its diamond sector, only months
after the industry watchdog lifted a ban on sales.
The EU head of mission in Harare told AFP after leading
the first visit by a group of Western diplomats to the eastern Marange
mines that the bloc could help Zimbabwe set up inspection mechanisms
that meet international standards.
"We note that there is a problem of transparency in the
diamond mining sector's revenues, which is reflected in the positions
that the Zimbabwe minister of finance has expressed publicly," Aldo
Concern over Zimbabwe's diamond mines has swung from a
global outcry over a state-sponsored purge of artisanal diggers to
questions about the trail of profits from the deposits which are now
formally mined for the global gem trade.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti has complained about lack
of information on revenue from the diamond sector, raising suspicions
that some of the funds are bypassing central government coffers.
"Transparency is a political issue but it is also a
technical issue, that demands proper capacity to carry out due
inspections," said Dell'Ariccia.
"Therefore, if so requested by the government of
Zimbabwe, the EU could provide the necessary technical assistance to
update, upgrade, complete the national installed capacity to carry out
proper inspections," he said.
The EU envoy led a team of ambassadors from Australia,
Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany and Spain on
the diamond mines tour which he said was a fact-finding mission at the
invitation of the Zimbabwe government.
He described management at one of the firms Western
diplomats visited as "excellent, really international standards" and
said that the security standards of the anti-conflict body, the
Kimberley Process, were "respected".
Zimbabwe had expected to rake in $600 million (480
million euros) from diamond sales this year, after the global watchdog
in November lifted a ban that was imposed over military abuses in the
fields, including Marange.
But in the first quarter of 2012, only about a quarter
of the projected diamond revenue for that period was received, according
Anjin, a company jointly owned by the Zimbabwe
government and a Chinese firm, and also the largest of the four diamond
mining companies in the country, had failed to remit its revenue to the
central government, Biti said.
But an Anjin director told the diplomats on Tuesday that a payment of $30 million had been made to government in royalties.
London-based Global Witness in its latest report
suggested Zimbabwe's feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) may
have received some $100 million and a fleet of 200 cars from a Hong
Kong-based businessman in exchange for diamonds outside formal
Biti, who is a member of the former opposition party of
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, has suggested that "there might be a
parallel government somewhere in respect of where these revenues are
The Marange fields are one of Africa's biggest diamond finds in recent years.
The army cleared small-scale miners from the area in
2008 in an operation that Human Rights Watch says killed more than 200
The EU chief said there had been no major rights incidents there lately.
A policeman is on trial for the kidnapping of four villagers, one of whom later died.
The fact a trial is under way "is something that demonstrates that there is a certain change in the reality."
"The fight against impunity is extremely important for the confidence that the people have in the system," said Dell'Ariccia.