In February this year, the European Union (EU) agreed that it will lift sanctions imposed on the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) within a month of the Zimbabwe plebiscite if all member states agree it was peaceful and transparent.
It said at the time that sanctions would also be lifted if there were no reasonable grounds to believe that ZMDC was not involved in activities undermining democracy during the elections.
Zimbabwe’s elections took place on July 31.
President Robert Mugabe and his party overwhelmingly won the poll although it was denounced as a “huge fraud” by his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
EU, which was barred from observing the poll, had also said that it would be guided by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union reports on the election to decide on whether to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe.
SADC endorsed the poll recently, saying it was “free and credible”.
A few days after the SADC report, Belgium, home to the world’s largest diamond trading hub, Antwerp, rekindled its fight to have its peers in the EU lift sanctions on ZMDC.
It said EU had not refused to recognize the election and so the February agreement should be respected and sanctions on ZMDC lifted.
“For us, there is an agreement,” Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hendrik van de Velde was quoted as saying by Reuters.
However, some EU members, including Britain expressed “serious concerns” over what they called electoral irregularities.
“There is strong evidence that these elections fell short of SADC’s own guidelines and the Zimbabwean electoral law,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague in a statement last month.
“We are concerned about the potential implications for the region.”
However, Mugabe hit back.
“For those old western countries who happen to hold a different negative view of our electoral process and outcome, well there is not much we can do about them. We dismiss them as the vile ones whose moral turpitude we must mould,” he said in speech at his inauguration.
“They are entitled to their views for as long as they recognize that the majority of our people endorsed the electoral outcome…Yesterday the pretext for imposing those sanctions was to do with a deficit of democracy here. Today we ask those culprit nations what their excuse is. What is it now? Whose interests are those sanctions meant to serve?”
Notwithstanding some EU member states’ criticism of the July 31 poll, reports say the bloc had agreed to lift sanctions on ZMDC.
Reuters quoted EU foreign affairs spokesman Michael Mann as saying that diplomats concluded there was no indication that ZMDC’s activities were linked to violence during the election period.
He, therefore, said the bloc had begun the process of removing ZMDC from the sanctions list.
Later, the Official Journal of the EU announced that imports of rough diamonds into the European Union from ZMDC are allowed from 25-09-2013 onwards. Imports from the other companies linked to this entity are also allowed: Marange Resources, Canadile, Mbada, Kimberworth Investments and Diamond Mining Corporation (DMC).
Thanks to the support of the Belgian authorities, the decision to lift the restrictive measures will result in diamonds commercialized by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, to be sold at their optimal market value instead of the current lower prices in other markets, AWDC declared.
The EU decision should have a positive impact on the functioning of the market, mining income, on the market transparency and on a sustainable social and economic development of Zimbabwe, AWDC noted.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said the lifting of sanctions on ZMDC was “too late and too little“.
“They want to help their commercial enterprises, the diamond-cutting companies (in Belgium). That’s the reason. They do not care about the suffering people of Zimbabwe,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
The move would likely peeve lobby groups such as the Global Witness who had been crying their lungs out for the sanctions to be tightened rather than being loosened.
Releasing its statement on this year’s Valentine Day, the group warned against what it called “a love triangle” between Belgium, its diamond dealers and Zimbabwe.
“European Union members seeking to promote democracy and stability in Zimbabwe should avoid a menage-a-trois with Belgium and its diamond dealers this Valentine’s Day,” it said.
Global Witness said any easing of curbs on Zimbabwe’s diamond industry would likely mean more cash for Mugabe’s loyalist police and military just months before the elections.
Some of us were less convinced that EU would lift the sanctions given their rabid criticism of Mugabe.
We assumed they were so disenchanted (based on their comments) for being ‘naïve’ that Mugabe would lose elections to Tsvangirai.
We were proved wrong, as business as usual prevailed over politics.
So, with the lid on Marange diamond trade (assuming the U.S will follow-suit) being lifted there won’t be any excuses by Harare to nicodemously trade its stones in fear of reprisals.
Let monthly, quarterly and annual trade figures be publicized, as was the case in countries such as Botswana and South Africa to clear the dark cloud of diamond looting hanging above Marange operations.