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Zimbabwe should not be clear to sell Marange gems: MP

HARARE, Nov 2 – The Kimberley Process diamond watchdog should not have cleared Zimbabwe to sell gems from its controversial Marange fields because the mining conditions remain murky, a Zimbabwean lawmaker said Wednesday.

“I think it was absolutely wrong to allow the Marange diamonds to be sold,” Edward Cross, a member of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party, told AFP.

“I have evidence that the value and volumes of Marange diamonds are being underestimated and are being used to subvert the democratic process in Zimbabwe.”

His comments came the day after the Kimberley Process (KP), established to prevent trade in so-called “blood diamonds”, authorised the resumption of diamond sales from two sites in Marange.

The deal came after negotiations involving the World Diamond Council, Zimbabwe, the European Union, South Africa and the United States and “will remain under constant review”, said the Council, which monitors KP compliance.

It resolves a deadlock that had threatened to derail the KP, with India and China supporting a resumption of Marange sales over bitter opposition from Western nations, rights groups and the industry.

The Marange fields, one of Africa’s biggest diamond finds in decades, have been the site of gross human rights violations, according to rights groups.

President Robert Mugabe’s army cleared small-scale miners from the area in late 2008 in an operation that Human Rights Watch says killed more than 200 people.

Cross last month tabled a motion in parliament to push for the nationalisation of the Marange fields, arguing they have not been properly regulated.

“The reason for my motion in parliament was basically to have Zimbabweans control the diamond revenues. Right now what is happening is illegal in Marange,” he said.

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Rights groups accuse Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, which shares power with the MDC in a tense coalition government, of funneling profits from Marange diamonds to senior military officials and party leaders.

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