Zimbabwe’s Diamond Dilemma: Is the Country’s Way Forward 100% Ethical?

A Raw Diamond from ZimbabweZimbabwe’s economic downturn has been one of the most noticeable and prominent of the last decade. One of Africa’s recovered economies in the late 1980s, the nation has since fallen victim to a series of mismanaged policies and destructive economic ideas. With the United States dollar as its official currency and major food shortages, international investment in the country is almost nil.

But opposition politicians – those representing Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change – have suggested that diamond mining could represent Zimbabwe’s road out of poverty and economic mismanagement. It’s been heralded as a potential way for the country’s economy to expand by over $2 billion, although it’s come under some major scrutiny from human rights groups.

Blood diamonds have a lengthy history in Africa. The sale of raw diamonds has been used to fund numerous conflicts and pay for extensive human rights abuses, the most obvious of which occurred in Angola just over twenty years ago. But with the Kimberley Diamond Trading Agreement largely followed and welcomed in Africa, many believe that diamonds could help kick-start the economy.

Zimbabwe has its own history of diamond smuggling. An event in 2008 at the Marange diamond mine saw over eighty labourers killed by the country’s military and an attempted coverup arranged. Overseas investors and international diamond firms – themselves no stranger to unethical diamond trading – have called for greater security before foreign companies invest in diamond mines and processing plants in the country.

There’s also the problem of Zimbabwe’s labour market – a population that’s been largely starved of the skills that neighbouring South Africa has made publicly available. Investors have suggested that with the right degree of oversight, security, and the right labour situation, ethical diamond mining could become Zimbabwe’s path out of poverty and political mismanagement.