By Kuda Bwititi recently in Gaborone, Botswana
ZIMBABWE is on the brink of clinching a deal with Botswana, for the neighbouring country to start processing its diamonds at the world renowned Diamond Trading Company (DTC) in Gaborone.
If struck, the deal is a game-changing development set to see Zimbabwe doing value addition on the precious stones and fetching more money.
DTC is regarded as the world’s most sophisticated diamond sorting and valuing hub and the arrangement will see Zimbabwe shipping its diamonds to Botswana for processing, cleaning and polishing before the stones are put on the market.
It is anticipated that roping in Botswana’s expertise will augur well for Zimbabwe, which has been selling its diamonds at prices around US$50 per carat although there is potential to get much higher earnings from the gemstones.
Speaking during a tour of DTC in Gaborone yesterday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa revealed that talks were at an advanced stage for the two countries to seal the agreement.
He said the arrangement is part of a broader policy to come up with a diamond policy for Zimbabwe.
“In Zimbabwe, yes we have diamonds, but we do not really have a diamond policy. We are now crafting the policy, discussing with Botswana, Namibia and Angola to assist us in formulating a diamond policy for Zimbabwe. But currently, there is discussion between my Minister of Mines and the young man here (Botswana’s Minister of Mines) so that we bring our diamonds from Zimbabwe to be processed here,” he said.
President Mnangagwa was shown a gem quality stone valued at US$11 million.
He said Zimbabwe had a lot to learn from Botswana’s expertise in the diamond industry.
“But I am so impressed with the level of technology and advanced processing that takes place here. I was holding one piece of stone estimated to the value of US$11 million. It is really an experience.
“I am also aware that here, they also process diamonds from South Africa and from even as far afield as Canada which speaks volumes about the quality of this centre. We are very proud as Africans, and we are very proud as Sadc that we have such technology.”
In an interview yesterday, Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando said the agreement would be signed soon. “First and foremost, Government would want to maximise on its revenue that it gets from diamond sales. The fact of the matter is that Botswana has more advanced technology in terms of the cutting and polishing. So what is happening is that the arrangement is at an advanced stage of being implemented so that Zimbabwe can take its diamonds to Botswana. Botswana will assist through advanced cleaning, cutting and polishing techniques to enhance their value so that when we take them for auction we will get higher value per carat than we would if we don’t go through that process.”
Minister Chitando said discussions to take Zimbabwe’s diamonds to Botswana had started months before, but President Mnangagwa’s Official State Visit had helped to seal the deal.
He said the first shipment of diamonds is expected be processed in Botswana within the next three months.
“Discussions were held prior to the State visit and that has been formalised after the State visit. “At the very late, by June, we are going into have our diamonds in Botswana. We have tasked our Attorney Generals from both countries to look at the legal processes.”
Minister Chitando said the auction of about 2 million carats of diamonds produced last year is currently ongoing but authorities are considering shipping part of that stockpile to Botswana’s DTC. During the tour, President Mnangagwa was taken through the diamond processing stages that include sorting, cutting, polishing as well as ascertaining the highest priced stones.
The State of the Art facility is able to process 13 tonnes per second.
President Mnangagwa’s tour to DTC was part of his two–day Official State Visit to Botswana at the invitation of Botswana President Sir Seretse Khama Ian Khama.