Concourt man­date on Di­a­monds Act must be broad­ened

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Jessie Collins

FOR US as par­tic­i­pants in the di­a­mond in­dus­try the mat­ter of the Di­a­monds Act 56 of 1986 be­ing dealt with in the high­est court in the land was long over­due, but alas, the min­eral-spe­cific leg­is­la­tion was nar­rowed down to a sin­gle sec­tion, de­spite its ar­chaic and apartheid-era-in­spired model.

Even the rea­son­ing be­hind the fi­nal de­ci­sion on this sin­gle sec­tion was weak and un­in­formed. One would have thought the con­sti­tu­tion was about right­ing the wrongs of the past and be­ing pro­gres­sive.

The pos­ses­sion of a rough di­a­mond is out­lawed – it is con­tra­band like drugs, yet peo­ple do not eat, drink or in­hale it.

This is the ba­sis for the Di­a­monds Act 56 of 1986 and was meant to pro­tect the as­sets of large min­ing com­pa­nies like De Beers who mined close to 95% of di­a­monds at the time.

This is not the case in non-African di­a­mond min­ing coun­tries like Canada, Aus­tralia and Brazil. It im­plies that the ra­tio­nale for con­trol­ling pos­ses­sion was that South Africans are dis­hon­est and could not be trusted to be in pos­ses­sion of a rough di­a­mond. This is an in­sult to rights of all and is Afro-pes­simistic.

Oddly one can be in pos­ses­sion of rough gem­stones like the equally beau­ti­ful emer­ald, tan­zan­ite, amethyst and topaz, some of which are rarer than di­a­monds but not di­a­monds.

It is well known that the con­trol of rough di­a­monds was part of a ploy by De Beers to con­trol sup­ply of rough di­a­monds and cre­ate an il­lu­sion of scarcity.

Sec­tion 20A in its ear­lier ver­sion read that: A li­censee may not be as­sisted by a nonSouth African in the view­ing and pur­chase of un­pol­ished di­a­monds at any au­tho­rised premises, ex­cept at a Di­a­mond Ex­change and Ex­port Cen­tre (DEEC). The ra­tio­nale there­fore for the 2007-im­ple­mented sec­tion 20A was not the Kim­ber­ley Process im­ple­mented in 2003 or for mon­i­tor­ing the buy­ing and selling of un­pol­ished di­a­monds, but to pre­vent for­eign­ers who pay higher prices from com­pet­ing for rough di­a­monds with lo­cal buy­ers. Re­al­is­ing its xeno­pho­bic na­ture, the sec­tion was later changed to its current form.

The rea­sons given by the Con­sti­tu­tional Court for the de­ci­sion that sec­tion 20A it­self was not un­con­sti­tu­tional was that the sec­tion al­lowed the state to bet­ter mon­i­tor the buy­ing and selling of di­a­monds out­side the DEECs. First of all it should be noted that the term “DEECs” was used er­ro­neously in plu­ral in the find­ing of the Concourt, how­ever, there is only one DEEC in the en­tire coun­try lo­cated in Joburg, away from the di­a­mond pro­duc­ers. Fur­ther­more sec­tion 20A does not strengthen the com­pli­ance with the Kim­ber­ley Process Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Scheme, as it is con­cerned only with the ex­port and im­port of rough di­a­monds and di­a­mond trad­ing houses are only plat­forms for lo­cal buy­ing and selling. The Concourt should have been in­formed that once di­a­monds ar­rive at a di­a­mond trad­ing house or DEEC it is im­pos­si­ble to as­cer­tain if the di­a­monds were in­deed mined in South Africa or out­side South Africa as they are mixed into parcels for selling.

In fact, rough di­a­monds are sold and bought out­side the DEEC ev­ery day, and this is con­trolled only through sub­mis­sion of doc­u­men­ta­tion such as in­voices and reg­is­ters.

It should also be noted that rough di­a­monds be­ing ex­ported through the DEEC does not pro­mote lo­cal ben­e­fi­ci­a­tion in any way, as all di­a­monds of­fered at the DEEC are even­tu­ally ex­ported.

Con­trol of rough di­a­monds was a ploy by De Beers

Hurly­vale, Ekurhu­leni

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