Lawson Mabhena News and Politics Editor
The United States of America’s recent decision to ban Zimbabwean diamonds without investigating allegations of forced labour or taking the matter up with the Kimberley Process points to “deliberate vilification” and justification of sanctions, a respected global journal has said.
The US recently banned trading of Zimbabwean gems over unverified allegations of the use of forced labour in the extraction of diamonds in the Marange fields.
Zimbabwe expects to produce 4,1 million carats of diamonds in 2019, up from 2,8 million carats in 2018. At the peak of production in 2012, the country’s output was 12 million carats. The ban by the US is largely seen as a measure to stifle the revival of Zimbabwe’s economy which has been suffocated by almost two decades of Western sanctions.
In an article posted yesterday and titled, ‘Why the US diamond ban against Zimbabwe makes no sense’, International Policy Digest described the recent ban on Zimbabweans gems as part of an ongoing onslaught which deliberately ignores commendation the country has received from international organisations including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Freedom House.
“Despite making genuine strides to transform Zimbabwe following decades of misrule under strongman Robert Mugabe, who died last month, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Government find themselves regularly maligned, not only by the opposition but also by NGOs and the Western press. Allegations of forced labour — even if unfounded — simply provide more fodder to the naysayers.
“This is strange, given the Government’s ambitious reform agenda to turn the country around, which has already yielded concrete results. It has implemented reforms across the media, economic and political spaces, bringing them in line with Western standards. It has cracked down on corruption and initiated the process of compensating white farmers who suffered from Mugabe’s discriminatory land policies. It has launched a challenging currency reform and managed to achieve a budget surplus and a positive current account for the first time since 2009,” the International Policy Digest article reads in part.
On Friday, the entire SADC region will join hands with Zimbabwe in calling for the unconditional removal of Western sanctions, which while are claimed to be targeted at particular individuals have over the years been extended to banks, companies, public enterprises and most recently, natural resources.
The decision, by the US, the global journal argues, is likely to reverse major strides made by the Zimbabwean Government in restoring a functional economy and extend the life of US sanctions which expire in March 2020.
“In the era of fake news, such important decisions should not be based on unverified rumours. The US did not send teams to Zimbabwe to monitor the production of diamonds or to consult with the Government authorities and committees in charge of supervising the diamond fields. Even the 81-nation Kimberley Process, which aims to ensure that earnings from diamond mining are not used to fund conflict, confirmed that it has no restrictions on trade in Zimbabwean diamonds,” the article reads.
“This gives the impression of deliberate vilification. Sadly, with Western media quickly jumping on the bandwagon without any fact-checking, the damage is done. More bad news out of Zimbabwe — a pattern which harms progress and likely keeps U. sanctions in place.”