Zimbabwe expressed concern over the United States’ ban placed on its diamonds to prevent it from being imported over concerns of forced labour.
The US Customs and Border Protection banned targeted products from China, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This has risen suspicion of the blockade being an extension of Washington DC’s trade war with China.
The US said that they issued a Withhold Release Order of the artisanal rough-cut diamonds from Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond field due to evidence of forced labour and the US law prohibits importation of goods made with forced labour.
The Secretary of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr. Nick Mangwana responded, “There is virtually nothing like this in our diamond industry. Zimbabwe is replete with a highly qualified labour force which is neither forced nor compelled at any point along the mining and processing value chain.”
He pointed out that Zimbabwe had not received a report on the alleged systematic forced labour. He added that the constitution prohibits forced, compulsory labour or slavery in any form.
“We will engage the US authorities on this while we continue with our re-engagement efforts as part of President Mnangagwa’s continuous foreign policy thrust of locating Zimbabwe within the global family of nations,” he said.
Mr Mark Mabhudhu diamond expert and former Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) chief executive said the claims by the US were “not only unfortunate but grossly misguided and misinformed”.
The ban comes at a time when Zimbabwe’s president Mnangagwa is keen to mend fences with western countries following the break up caused by the land seizure. The government believes that good ties with the western countries will re-establish Zimbabwe internationally and attract foreign investments hence restore the economy of the country.
In 2016 when Robert Mugabe was the president, he said diamonds from Marange worth $15 billion could not be accounted for.
The government said it would nationalize the diamond mines but President Mnangagwa, who took over from the late Mugabe denied the plans.
Anjin, a Chinese company is one of the miners in Marange under a joint venture with the Zimbabwean military. In 2016, its mines were nationalized but under President Mnangagwa’s government, it was allowed back.