South Africans are demanding that Buckingham Palace returns the world’s largest known clear-cut diamond on the late Queen Elizabeth’s sceptre following her death.
Known as the Great Star of Africa or Cullinan I, the diamond is cut from a larger gem that was mined in South Africa in 1905 and handed over to the British royal family by South Africa’s colonial authorities. It is currently mounted on a royal scepter belonging to the Queen.
Demands for the return of the Great Star of Africa and other diamonds — along with calls for repatriations — have intensified since the Queen’s death. Many South Africans view Britain’s acquisition of the jewels as illegitimate.
Recall that some Africans expressed contempt when the Queen died over her alleged role in the colonisation of the African continent.
This has led to the growing calls in South Africa for the diamond to be returned as they believe it belongs to them.
In South Africa, there has been a debate in the media about who owns the Great Star of Africa as well as other precious stones that were mined in the country.
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One of the views held in the country was that of the African Transformation Movement (ATM) Member of Parliament (MP) Vuyo Zungula who holds that South Africa should cut its Commonwealth ties and have a new constitution.
“SA should now leave the Commonwealth, demand reparations for all the harm done by Britain, draft a new constitution based on the will of the people of SA not the British Magna Carta, and demand the return of all the gold, diamonds stolen by Britain” he said.
Similarly former African National Congress (ANC) KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo said: “The minerals of our country and other countries continue to benefit Britain at the expense of our people.
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“We remain in deep, shameful poverty, we remain with mass unemployment and rising levels of crime due to the oppression and devastation caused by her and her forefathers. The Cullinan Diamond must be returned to SA with immediate effect.”
The report reveals that more than 6,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Great Star of Africa to be returned and put in a South African museum.
However, like the majority of African leaders, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa offered his condolences following the death of the Queen but many have said instead he should have called for the diamond to be returned.
One wrote,” Did you ask her when would she bring back the South African diamond?,” while another posted reacting to King Charles III’s ascension that his “First call of duty return South Africa’s diamond!”
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The Great Star of Africa diamond
According to the Royal Collection Trust, which oversees the royal collection of the British royal family, the Cullinan diamond was presented to King Edward VII (the British monarch at the time) in 1907, two years after its discovery in a private mine in South Africa’s old Transvaal province.
“It was sent to Asscher of Amsterdam to be cleft in 1908,” it added.
Weighing around 3,106 carats in its natural form, the original diamond was “the size of a human heart,” the Royal Asscher says.
Supporting the British monarchy’s claim to the precious stone, the Royal Asscher explains that the gem was purchased by South Africa’s Transvaal government (run by British rule) and presented to King Edward VII as a birthday gift.
A University of South Africa professor of African politics, Everisto Benyera, rejects this narrative. He told CNN that “colonial transactions are illegitimate and immoral.”
“Our narrative is that the whole Transvaal and Union of South Africa governments and the concomitant mining syndicates were illegal,” Benyera said, arguing that: “Receiving a stolen diamond does not exonerate the receiver. The Great Star is a blood diamond … The private (mining) company, the Transvaal government, and the British Empire were part of a larger network of coloniality.”
According to the Royal Asscher, the Cullinan diamond was cut into nine large stones and 96 smaller pieces. The largest of the stones was named the Great Star of Africa by King Edward VII, who also named the second largest cut stone the Smaller Star of Africa.
Dazzling pink diamond could fetch more than $21 million at auction.
The larger diamond was set in the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross and the second cut stone was mounted in the Imperial Crown. Queen Elizabeth II has been seen in many portraits wearing these diamonds.
“The late Queen of England has flaunted these (diamonds) for over half a century,” said Leigh-Ann Mathys, a national spokeswoman for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a South African opposition political party, to CNN.
Mathys accused British colonial powers of stealing lands and appropriating mines that belonged to native people.
“Our call is for repatriations for all colonial theft, which the theft of the Great Star of Africa is a part of,” she said.
“We don’t call for its return, as this implies that there was a valid agreement in terms of which the British royal family was borrowed the diamond. It is in their possession purely as a result of colonial tenacities that suffocated natives in this country and elsewhere,” Mathys told CNN.
African countries have persistently fought to recover cultural artifacts pillaged by colonial troops. Last month, a London museum agreed to return 72 objects looted from the Kingdom of Benin, in southern Nigeria, during a British military operation in 1897.