Tuesday 12th July 2011
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Today we travelled into town and spoke to a few locals. Apart from those
persistently pesky hawkers I enjoyed a very interesting discussion with a
man who was running a gallery.
On the way back to the hotel on the bus I was sitting beside a young woman
who was the Human Resources manager for the hotel. We talked all about
dealing with people in business, the challenges and advantages of being a
woman in her job, training and development of staff. She confidently and
in excellent English, her second or third language, told me about the
staff appraisal system she ran and how she also was a duty manager and how
she built up her own experience in the tourism industry.
With what I had seen in South Africa and speaking with these people here
in Zimbabwe I felt very hopeful for Africa's long term future.....
Back in the hotel we were sitting out on the terrace watching the game and
elephants at the waterhole when three African men and one woman pitched up
I got chatting with the guys who seemed smart and pleasant. It turns out
they were from Zambia and they were just over in "Zim" for the day.
As usual I asked "so how are things in Zambia?". The main guy responded by
telling me the government was full of corruption and they needed a change.
The government was helping itself and not the people - (sound familiar?).
One of the guys said "yeah every man for himself and God for the people".
They clearly were of a different political persuasion to the government
and complained how rigged the elections were etc etc, but that there would
soon be change after the next elections which were coming soon.
They asked me about my travels and I told them about our sailing.
Now I am not really sure whether I should blog this but ...............
and you may not believe me ........... but here goes:
They said that some of the land round here was rich in diamonds, some
people in some areas could just pick them off the ground! They said Zambia
was very rich in copper but the Chinese had basically done a deal with
their government to take all the copper out for next to nothing.
But Diamonds, some countries nearby were rich in diamonds he said. He
suggested that I take diamonds back to the UK with me. Diamonds or Gold.
Would I like some? I could now sense this was getting a bit dodgy so I
tried to gently ease out of the conversation.
He was not having any of it though and suggested I just take a sample to
open up the market for them. Oh good grief - "taxi for Graham!"
I was flabbergasted but I obviously did not ease out of the conversation
firmly enough. You see I did not want to cause them any concern about
having been talking to me.
"I could just bring you ten carats tomorrow" he said, "as a sample". "No
not for me, no thanks and i am leaving tomorrow", I said. "What time?" he
asked. "Early" I said. "There is no problem this is the Immigration
officer here who helped us get them across the border today!" "No no not
for me I said moving my chair back a little looking for an "out". "Or if
you want we can go straight for a hundred carats, we took 317 carats
across today and just shipped them to (European country) by (Courier), we
can give you all the paperwork required. You just need one jeweller friend
back in your country with a licence........"
"So where do you get the diamonds from" I said, trying not to look too
nervous. For goodness sake I was sitting in the best joint in Vic falls
enjoying the game and cold drink, my wife was sitting half a metre away
from me I didn't need this....
Then - listen to this: "they come from Congo into Angola and our guy is a
friend of the General of the army there and he gets them across to Zambia
to us. We take them across the border to Zim and then ship them out. Uncut
and rough $500 per carat"
Bold as brass. These are excatly what are known as blood diamonds. Bloody
hell I only asked them "how were things in Zambia?"
The incredible thing is that there is only a few weeks since we watched
the movie Blood Diamonds which is exactly about this despicable business.
I have to say I was so taken aback I found myself floundering a little and
not extracting myself from the conversation as quickly as I should. Quite
un-nerving really but then T.I.A. This Is Africa