The European Union is withdrawing all sanctions against the state-run Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) following increasing pressure from members, especially from Belgium, the global diamond trade centre.
According to a diplomat quoted by Reuters, the EU has “begun the process of delisting” ZMDC from the list of companies affected by the body’s sanctions, despite concerns over alleged fraud in the July election that kept President Robert Mugabe in power.
Zimbabwe’s diamond industry has been fraught with controversy both domestically and internationally due to accusations of human rights abuses and corruption.
Last year, Zimbabwe’s Deputy Mines Minister, Gift Chimanikire, confirmed an army-owned company holds a 40% stake on Anjin, one of the most lucrative diamond concessions in the country.
Days later it was reported that a Chinese diamond mogul have ploughed $100 million into the African country’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to fund covert operations against the opposition.
And early this year, the country’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti accused diamond firms of failure to pay tax revenues in full to the authorities, claiming only $40 million out of an expected $600 million reached government coffers in 2012.
Mugabe has repeatedly claimed the sanctions only affected ordinary people, while the EU says the embargo never meant to affect the country, only individuals responsible for human rights violations.
The U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand also have their own-targeted measures against the African leader and his inner circle.
ZMDC operates five joint-venture mines in the rich Marange diamond fields, producing eight million carats last year and generating $685 million in exports.
The nation’s total diamond production from Marange increased from 8,7 million carats in 2011 to 12 million carats last year. This year, production is expected to rise further reaching over 17 million carats.
Image: EU Parliament via Flickr