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US sanctions harmful to the generality of Zimbabweans - Biti

18 Jan 2012 at 07:29hrs | Views
The following is a letter by Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Tendai Biti to the United States Treasury, expressing his disquiet with a decision to impose a ban on diamonds from Marange:
19 December 2011

Charles Collyns
Assistant Secretary of Treasury

I refer to the decision taken by the United States Treasury on the 9th December 2011 placing the above companies on the list of proscribed and sanctioned companies.

I want to place it on record that we as Ministry of Finance, writing on behalf of the government of Zimbabwe, find your measures contrary to the spirit of engagement and harmful to the generality of Zimbabweans.

As you are aware, I have been consistent in my lobby for Zimbabwe to be allowed to sell its diamonds but under and in compliance with the Kimberley Certification Scheme.

Pursuant to this, I was pleased when the United States of America shifted its position and supported Zimbabwe in Kinshasa on 1st November 2011 and a compromise was reached allowing Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds under the Kimberley Certification Scheme.

Zimbabwe is a poor fragile economy and therefore it must be allowed to sell and benefit from its resources. In my budget, there are capital projects of US$600 million which are totally dependent on diamond revenues.

Diamonds have been sold illicitly and illegally from Zimbabwe. There have been challenges of accountability and lack of transparency when Zimbabwe was outside the Kimberley Certification Scheme. Selling under Kimberley Process Certification Scheme would therefore, take away any opaqueness or illicitness.

Being part of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme would allow Zimbabwe to benefit from the expertise of the KPSC.
We have challenges of policing and monitoring the large area of almost 120,000 hectares where these diamonds are found.
There is also the fundamental issue of expertise which we do not have, but the KPSC has, and we could benefit from.
The decision to proscribe Mbanda and Marange is self-defeating and negates the Kinshasa decision.

The two companies and Zimbabwe should have firstly been allowed to put their case forward before the punitive action was taken. Due process of the law is guaranteed ion Amendment 14 of your Constitution.

Secondly, to the extent that normalcy had been restored by the Kishasa compromise, the two companies ought to have been given space and a chance to operate under the new regime of compliance.

The two monitors, Mr Abbey Chikane and Mr Mark van Bostael, would have provided regular updates to the KPSC.
If there was to be non-compliance, then the issue would be discussed and remedial measures or penalties taken within the KPSC.

Thirdly, the US decision undermines the KPSC and its chairmanship of this body. A member must act in good faith. One cannot in one forum act in one manner and then unilaterally undermine the collective decision taken at the common forum.

It would also be curious to find out the motive of your decision against the two companies.

Your decision will not stop the mining that is a sovereign issue covered by international law. More importantly, it will not stop the sale of diamonds.

All it does is encourage more opaqueness and underwriting of the diamond industry.

As I said before, this is a self-defeating and retrogressive position one which I hope was not taken to placate powerful interests who were against the Kinshasa agreement.

I trust that you shall urgently review this position.

I will be in the United States between 23rd December 2011 and 7th January 2012 and I would be happy to discuss this issue further.

Yours faithfully,

Hon T. Biti, MP
Minister of Finance

Cc His Excellency, the President, Cde R. G. Mugabe
Cc The Rt Hon Prime Minister M. Tsvangirai
Cc Hon Dr O. Mpofu, Minister of Mines
Cc Ambassador Charles Ray
Cc Assistant Secretary Johnie Carson
Cc US State Department
Cc Kimberley Process Certification Scheme

Source - Tendai Biti
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