Zimbabwe and De Beers’ decline

Source: New Zimbabwe

Author: Tafadzwa Musarara

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OBERT Mpofu has become the first and only African mines minister to take De Beers head on, and successfully inflict collateral damage on the century-old world diamond cartel leader.
Mpofu has forced the Oppenheimer dynasty to make a hasty exit from the conglomerate which they had ruled as their own family fiefdom for more than 70 years.
This is a big feat for a mines minister of a third world country to fight a worldwide establishment with a foundation deeply rooted in the Scramble for Africa. Founded in 1888 by Cecil John Rhodes, De Beers’s diverse business operations include diamond extracting, trading, cutting and polishing, jewellery manufacturing and retail.
The former diamond-mining giant has a record of providing massive material and financial assistance to former repressive colonial regimes in countries where it operated, including Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. De Beers grew phenomenally during the apartheid era when it bought several businesses that were closing in protest against the repressive political system in South Africa. This has resulted in De Beers owning at least 40% of major entities listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. During apartheid, De Beers crafted all statutes and policies on diamond trade in South Africa and benefitted from black cheap labour.

But in Zimbabwe, after decades of looting, De Beers is well and truly in retreat, soon to be a footnote in history.

“De Beers stole our diamonds,” bellowed Mpofu during his address to the Dubai Diamond Conference last month.
“We had De Beers in Zimbabwe exploring in Marange for 15 years. They exported 100,000 metric tonnes of diamond ore to South Africa for what they claimed was to carry out laboratory tests. No results of that exercise were revealed to the government of Zimbabwe as required by law. Soon after their departure, it took villagers living in the same particular area few days to start mining diamonds.”

And speaking to members of African Diamond Producers in Jerusalem on the sidelines of the 2010 Kimberly Plenary, Mpofu said: “Fellow Africans, our problems getting KP certification [to export diamonds] have serious underlying currencies.

“Apart from our bilateral arguments with Britain, we see that De Beers is behind the funding of this hostile civic society. We have a history with De Beers.

Mpofu had to contend with and defeat the De Beers machinery which could not fathom that for the first time in its century-old cartel, it had failed to lay its dirty hands on the world biggest and most lucrative diamond find.

The KP-supervised diamond sales of 2009 and 2011 impacted negatively on De Beers’ share price leading to the ousting of its chairman, Nick Oppenheimer, as other shareholders felt he had failed to stop Mpofu’s growing popularity in KP and the massive diamond sales from Marange which were now deflating world diamond prices.

Oppenheimer’s imperial management style failed to conquer the Marange find as the Zimbabwe phenomenon triggered the emergence of new entrants, mainly from India, who could not enter the diamond industry previously due to De Beers’ imposed restrictive measures.

The movie Blood Diamonds tremendouslyexposed De Beers’ dealing in diamonds mined from rebel-controlled areas. However, the threat made by Mpofu to take De Beers has worsened its integrity woes.

The battle for the Marange diamonds Kimberly Process (KP) certification had serious invisible forces at play, which informed the resistance and the demonisation of these mining operations. The quantum of financial resources deployed by De Beers to civic society organisations to carry “oversight” on Marange is the highest given in the history of the KP.

Mpofu’s three-year fight for the KP certification of these mines and re-instatement of his country as a full KP member did not only re-shape the jurisprudence of this diamond trade controlling body but put Zimbabwe on the international map.

A recent report, South Africa’s De Beers: The most unethical corporation, authored by the St Antoninus Institute, a Catholic business think tank, described De Beers as the most manipulative corporation in the world. The report adds: “DeBeers is guilty of more than all that. It is an integral part of the old-boy network instituted by the British and encompassing different US operations and interests for the purpose of controlling international governments and populations for the good and in the interest of a number of corporations, especially banks.

“The American version of this international network is called the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR). Anyone drawing attention to the dark side of the objectives of this outfit is branded and derided as giving credence to the ‘conspiracy theory’.

“DeBeers supports CFR and its other international version as they are means to protect the integrity of its cartel. The other major members of CFR, the banks, support the group because it allows them to introduce their people in all different types of governments and political parties so that these government will never consider commandeering or nationalising the assets of the banks (bankers are paranoid about collaterals but how do you enforce a collateral against a sovereign government?).

“Through CFR, De Beers undermines the political process of several countries, including the US.”
The fall of De Beers in Zimbabwe and the continued fight by Mpofu brings relief to many other African countries who could not stop the Wild West behaviour in their areas of jurisdiction.

Since the discovery of diamonds in the Kalahari desert in 1969 by De Beers, the Bushman – the indigenes of this area – have never known any peace as they face displacement any time. It is expected, therefore, that Batswana activists are going to ride on Mpofu’s victory as they now realise that zizi harina nyanga.

Tafadzwa Musarara is the chairman of Resource Exploitation Watch

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