Africa Moyo Deputy News Editor
GOVERNMENT has expressed concern over the United States’ continued attempts to suffocate Zimbabwe’s economy after it barred local diamonds from entering Washington claiming they were produced through forced labour.
The diamonds were denied entry on Monday.
The US Embassy Harare sent a seemingly celebratory tweet yesterday saying: “US Customs & Border Protection issued a Withhold Release Order for artisanal rough cut diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields on Oct. 1, 2019 due to evidence of forced labour. US law prohibits importation of goods made with forced labour.”
But Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana told The Herald last night that Government was dismayed by the US action which amounted to new sanctions on Zimbabwe’s diamond industry.
He pointed out that Zimbabwe had not officially had a report on the alleged systematic forced labour, which is illegal under the country’s laws .
The Minister of Labour and Social Welfare said Zimbabwe had a policy of promoting decent labour.
An industry expert last night described the decision by the US as grossly “misguided and misinformed”.
Said Mr Mangwana: “The Government of Zimbabwe is baffled by the decision of the United States of America to issue a so-called Withhold Release Order for roug labour.”
“This is a regrettable development because the reason the US authorities are citing, namely that Zimbabwean diamonds are being produced under forced labour, is a blatant and shameless lie that will surprise even cynics amongst us.
“Zimbabwe’s Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labour. We also amended the Labour Act in 2015 to ensure that it is aligned with the Constitution. As a Government we have a very strong revulsion towards any form of slavery or servitude,” said Mr Mangwana.
He added they have not received reports of forced labour and “definitely (not) of a systematic nature” that might arouse international sanction.
“Apparently, invoking the repulsive prospect of alleged forced labour is a new nomenclature for seeking to bar Zimbabwe’s diamonds from the international market after previous attempts to label Zimbabwean diamonds as blood diamonds failed,” said Mr Mangwana.
The US, together with some Western countries, urged on by their local stooges, waged a spirited campaign against Zimbabwe’s diamonds with deliberate efforts invested towards manipulating the Kimberly Process and Certification Scheme (KPCS) to exclude and exclude Harare.
The US, which has slapped sanctions on 56 local companies and 65 individuals, remains determined to ensure the country’s economy continues to bleed.
Mr Mangwana said there was no doubt that the latest move by the US constitutes “a grave and serious attack on Zimbabwe’s interests and is no less a manifestation of undeclared sanctions that have hurt the economy”.
“We will engage the US authorities on this while we continue with our re-engagement efforts as part of President Mnangagwa’s continuous foreign policy thrust of locating Zimbabwe within the global family of nations,” he said.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza told The Herald last night that they have just completed the “Decent Work Programme strategy and one of our objectives is to promote the dignity and rights of workers in the work place”.
“My ministry is concerned by any reports on the alleged forced Labour and we will work on investigating any such companies or any reported cases,” she said.
Diamond expert and former Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) chief executive Mr Mark Mabhudhu said the claims by the US were “not only unfortunate but grossly misguided and misinformed”.
“There is virtually nothing like this in our diamond industry. Zimbabwe is replete with a highly qualified labour force which is neither forced nor compelled at any point along the mining and processing value chain,” he said.