Friday, February 22, 2019
Futhi Zikalala

Futhi Zikalala

State Diamond Trader

ESTIMATES vary as to employment numbers in South Africa’s diamond polishing and cutting industry. Futhi Zikalala said the State Diamond Trader (SDT) had 65 clients employing up to 800 people. Other diamond sources say it’s closer to 300. Neither estimate is close to the 4,500 people that were employed in South Africa 20 years ago. The fact of the matter is that the country’s local diamond cutting industry is dying on the vine. This is despite efforts by the government to grow the sector, hence its creation in 2008 of the SDT which took over the functions performed by Diamdel. Critics of the SDT say bureaucracy, the inability to compete with Indian and Chinese cutters, and a run-of-mine purchasing model that forces the SDT to buy goods it can’t economically beneficiate are some of its systemic weaknesses. The fact is that the government’s intended vanguard of mineral beneficiation is failing. In its 2015 financial year, the SDT sold less than 3% of total South African production down from 4% previously - and nowhere near the 10% it is mandated to buy. A recent diamond conference aimed at boosting South African diamond cutting seemed to overlook how the transfer of De Beers’ cutting and polishing operations to Botswana’s Gaborone in 2013 had ended the debate as to whom controlled the African cutting sector.


Zikalala was appointed CEO of the SDT in 2009 replacing Abbey Chikane. She was previously deputy director-general of mining policy and promotion as the Department of Mineral Resources.