Great Star of Africa: Demands that Britain return a 500-carat diamond to South Africa

Demands are mounting in South Africa for Britain’s royal family to return the world’s largest known clear diamond following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Known as the Big Star of Africa or Cullinan I, the diamond is cut from a larger gem that was mined in South Africa in 1905 and presented to the British Royal Family by the South African colonial authorities. It is currently mounted on a scepter belonging to the Queen.

Demands for the return of the Great Star of Africa and other diamonds – along with calls for repatriation – have increased since the Queen’s death. Many South Africans consider the British purchase of the jewels illegitimate.

National conversation

The Queen’s death has opened up a conversation about colonialism and how it relates to her legacy. South African media has disputed ownership of the gem, along with demands for compensation.
“The Cullinan diamond must be returned to South Africa immediately,” activist Thanduxolo Sabelo told local media, adding that: “Our country’s minerals and those of other countries continue to benefit Britain at the expense of our people.”
More than 6,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Great Star of Africa to be returned and displayed in a South African museum.
Member of the South African Parliament, Vuyolwethu Zungula, encouraged his country to “demand compensation for all the damage the British have caused” and also “demand restitution of all the gold, diamonds the British have stolen.”
When Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa posted a tweet Some South Africans hijacked the post to praise the Queen to complain about the return of the Superstar Diamond.
One wrote,” Did you ask her when she would bring the South African diamond back?,” meanwhile another inserted respond to the ascension of King Charles III that “His first call returns the diamond of South Africa!”

A royal gift or a ‘stolen’ diamond?

Queen Elizabeth II wears the Imperial Crown and carries the Globe and Scepter after her coronation.

Queen Elizabeth II wears the Imperial Crown and carries the Globe and Scepter after her coronation. Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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 it was discovered in a private mine in South Africa. former Transvaal province.

“It was sent to Asscher of Amsterdam to be split in 1908,” it added.

The original diamond, which weighs about 3,106 carats in its natural form, was “about the size of a human heart,” says Royal Asscher.

Royal Asscher supports the British monarchy’s claim to the precious stone, explaining that the gem was purchased by the Transvaal Government of South Africa (run by the British administration) and given to King Edward VII as a birthday gift.

University of South Africa professor of African politics, Everisto Benyera, rejects this narrative. He told CNN that “colonial trade is illegal and immoral.”

“Our narrative is that the entire Transvaal government and the Union of South Africa and the parallel mining conglomerates were illegal,” Benyera said, arguing that: “Receiving a stolen diamond does not absolve the receiver. The superstar is a blood diamond … The private (mining) company, the Transvaal government and the British Empire were part of a larger colonial network.”

The Queen’s death brings back painful memories of British colonialism

According to Royal Asscher, the Cullinan diamond was cut into nine large stones and 96 smaller pieces. The largest stone was named the Large Star of Africa by King Edward VII, who also named the second largest cut stone the Smaller Star of Africa.

The larger diamond was set in the scepter with a cross, and the second cut stone was set in the imperial crown. Queen Elizabeth II has been seen in many portraits wearing these diamonds.

“Since the Queen of England has been flying these (diamonds) for more than half a century,” Leigh-Ann Mathys, spokeswoman for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), South Africa’s opposition party, told CNN.

Mathys accused British colonialism of stealing lands and appropriating mines that belonged to the natives.

“Our calling is repatriation for all colonial theft, of which the theft of Africa’s Superstar is a part,” she said.

“We do not demand its return, as it indicates that there was a valid agreement that the British royal family borrowed the diamond. It is in their possession only because of the persistence of the colonialists who suffocated the natives in this country and elsewhere,” said Mathys with CNN.

African countries have fought persistently to recover cultural relics looted by colonial forces. Last month, a London museum agreed to return 72 items looted from Benin, in southern Nigeria, during a British military operation in 1897.

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