Diamonds are not Zimbabwe’s best friend
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Contrary to the assertions of one Zimbabwean journalist, the diamond trade may well exacerbate Zimbabwe’s already dire economic situation (most recent figures state GNI per capita is around $360- less than a third of Sudan’s). Gaining approval from the World Diamond Council is a red herring: the most important issue is who will benefit from the trade.
The outlook isn’t auspicious. Zimbabwe is one of the worst regimes in the world for protecting property rights. Consequently, powerful elites are able to capitalise upon resource discoveries by taking control of the industries and using the proceeds for their own ends. Indeed a 2009 report, by Human Rights Watch, showed that the main domestic beneficiaries of Zimbabwe’s diamond trade are the very people responsible for undermining the process of political reform- namely ZANU-PF officials, police “reaction teams” and the military.
Without an effective independent judiciary, those outside of the political elite are unlikely to be able to exact much leverage. Instead of giving the Zimbabwean economy a much needed shot in the arm, the diamond trade will likely help to fund the very government responsible for decimating the economy in the first place. Whilst Zimbabwe’s diamonds might be “conflict free”, they certainly won’t be “corruption free”.