Itai Mazire Harare Bureau
Zimbabwean diamond mining companies have won back diamonds worth about $45 million that were seized three months ago in Belgium by a South African mining company, Amari Platinum Holdings and a group of 14 white former commercial farmers. Amari Platinum Holdings sued Zimbabwe for $500 million at the International Court of Arbitration in Paris, France, over a cancelled platinum concession dispute with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation four years ago.
On the other hand, the group of the Dutch farmers dubbed the Funnekotter group, approached the European Union court to seize the Zimbabwean diamonds following the success of the South African platinum mining company court application.
The Dutch farmers have been demanding that $54 million be awarded to them by the United States-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment after they lost farms that were distributed by the government to landless Zimbabweans.
The farmers claimed they were illegally evicted from the farms by the then Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Cde Didymus Mutasa, which they said was in breach of a Bilateral Investment Treaty.
Speaking from Belgium on Friday, Farai Mutamangira, who led a team of lawyers dispatched by the government to challenge the attachment of the gems, said the Brussels court dismissed the challenge by Amari Platinum Holdings.
“The court of first instance in Antwerp has ruled in favour of Zimbabwe, dislodging the attachment of the diamonds belonging to mining companies,” he said.
“In other words, it’s a legal action by which the plaintiff demands that the defendant return a thing that belongs to the plaintiff, meaning that Zimbabwe has won back its diamonds worth $45 million.
“Hence, the court has issued a declaratory, upholding that the diamonds should be returned to the mining companies after the ruling. These were about 500,000 carats worth over $50 million. The court told Amari Platinum Holdings that the diamonds belonged to mining companies and not to the government of Zimbabwe and ZMDC.
“However, the repatriation of the precious stones will be done after December 18 since the white former commercial farmers’ case will be brought on December 18.”
Mutamangira said the legal team was also represented by the country’s acting Attorney General Advocate Prince Machaya.
Presenting its heads of argument last month, the legal team highlighted that the initial judgment by British retired Judge Stuart Isaacs raised eyebrows considering that the European Union had imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Diamond Mining Company chief executive officer Ramzi Malik said there was urgent need for the government to facilitate the repatriation of the gems from Belgium.