Lovemore Chikova in ANTWERP, Belgium
The removal of illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe’s diamond mining companies was long overdue and will now spur the development of the country’s natural resources, especially as it trades in its Marange gems at Antwerp, a Belgium official has said. Speaking during a dinner hosted for the Zimbabwean delegation touring Antwerp, the world’s biggest diamond trading hub, on Wednesday, Antwerp’s vice mayor Mr Ludo Van Campenhout said it was good that the country was now part of the world diamond trading centre.
“We are happy that the embargo has been cancelled by the European Union,” he said. “That is a good thing and it gives us an opportunity to develop trade. The lifting of the sanctions was overdue. The diamond industry is part of the city and today you are now also part of the city.”
Mr Van Campenhout said Antwerp had a tradition of being open and friendly, with people from almost 170 nationalities living in the city in harmony. The trading of diamonds from Zimbabwe on the world market had been stalled by the illegal sanctions regime imposed on the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and its subsidiaries by the European Union.
ZMDC is a State enterprise in partnerships with five diamond mining companies in Marange, whose operations have all been certified by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.
Speaking at the same occasion, secretary for Mines and Mining Development Professor Francis Gudyanga said it was important that Antwerp played a role in ensuring that the sanctions were lifted.
“We know you have done a lot to have the sanctions lifted,” he said. “Our view is to try and learn how the business (of diamond trading) goes.
“There is so much expectation back home that the selling of our diamonds will translate into the building of roads and schools. We call on you to mentor us so that we have an efficient system in handling our diamonds.”
Speaking in an interview yesterday, Prof Gudyanga said the visit to Antwerp which started on Tuesday and ends on Monday next week had been so far productive.
He said the delegation had learnt a lot within the few days, especially on the technical issues required to successfully auction diamonds.
“We have been taken through various processes to do with finances, economic arrangements and we have also gone through the logistics on how the system works for bringing up the diamonds,” he said.
“But the most important thing we have come to understand is that we add value to our minerals. We are improving the system. We have to have integrity into the system that we operate.
“Whether it is the system of sorting our diamonds, the system of grading them, the system of purchasing, the system has to be really not tampered with. This is where we get maximum value of our diamonds.”
Prof Gudyanga said it was important to have Zimbabweans trained for them to operate the diamond system efficiently.
He said all stakeholders in the diamond industry, including producers, should be aware of all the various aspects so that the system becomes flawless.
“This involves various arms of Government, the producers, the security as well as the financiers, so it’s really a very integrated system which we hope we can introduce in Zimbabwe,” said Prof Gudyanga.
“The people here in Antwerp are very keen to assist us with all the various aspects. We are having various dialogues with various people so that every aspect of it is done according to well tested systems so that we have the best practices we will be bringing to Zimbabwe.”
Prof Gudyanga said if all the proper channels were followed, the country would get value from its gems.
The delegation, which is being led by Prof Gudyanga and made up of officials from the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, the ZMDC and embassy officials, has so far toured a number of establishments associated with the marketing and auctioning of diamonds.
On Wednesday, the delegation was upraised by Belgian government officials on the procedures to be followed for the export of diamonds to Antwerp, before visiting the Diamond Office to observe the process.
The delegation yesterday visited Malca Amit, a company that provides security for diamonds in transit and those already at Antwerp, and also had sight of procedures at the diamond trading hub’s laboratory.