For the second time this week we braved winter rain to gather outside the Zimbabwe Embassy. On Wednesday a valiant group (Arnold Magwanyata, Bridget Mupotsa, Cephas Maswoswa, Constance Matobela, Dennis Benton, Lindiwe Bare, Loveness Chikwanje, Michelle Dube, Molly Ngavaimbe, Nobuhle Mazula, Penina Mashiri, Rosemary Maponga, Sihle Sibanda) had gone to the Embassy to deliver a petition demanding transparency in Zimbabwe’s diamond sales. It was part of ‘Operation Take Back Zimbabwe’ organized by the 21st Movement which has been holding monthly demonstrations by the diaspora since January.
Although Wednesday was a working day, the Embassy’s front doors were firmly closed. As the Embassy has no post box we slipped our petition under the door. Our comrades in Washington DC had a similar experience. Den Moyo, Co-ordinator of the 21st Movement, wrote ‘In the US we also had a successful demo at the Zimbabwe Embassy. Despite Ambassador Mapuranga’s official Mercedes Benz being parked in front of the building, there was no response to our knocks on the door. We had to slide the petition under the door. We find it appalling that these diplomats are reneging on their duty to serve the Zimbabwean communities abroad.’
It is clear that Zimbabwe’s embassies fear the diaspora. They are typical of diplomatic outposts of a rogue state led by an African ‘Big Man’ as the former UN Secretary-General Koffi Annan of Ghana described Mugabe this week. He said it was time Africa looked beyond the continent’s colonial past. ‘The support for the Big Man system – Robert Mugabe is an example – created a political culture that simply encourages autocrats and dictatorships’ (see: Mugabe a dictator – Annan – http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/nov22_2012.html#Z17).
A ‘Big Man’ such as Mugabe needs big money to keep in power and this is why the Vigil and the rest of the Zimbabwean diaspora is demanding transparency in Zimbabwe’s diamond revenues. The MDC-T MP Eddie Cross told a conference in Harare that if the diamond fields in Zimbabwe had been exploited on the lines proposed by the original company, as a joint venture with the government like in Botswana, Zimbabwe’s economy would have been transformed.
As much as five and a half billion dollars could have gone to the state in the past four years. ‘In Botswana . . . the state receives two-thirds of gross sales. Education is free and the people do not pay personal taxes. Botswana has an income per capita today of nearly $9,000 and is rated a middle-income country. Zimbabwe has an income per capita of just $390 in 2012 and is rated one of the poorest countries in the world.’
Mr Cross cited the following points as indicating the colossal scale of diamond looting:
• A deficit on imports of nearly 50 per cent or in excess of $4 billion this year;
• Imports of $1,4 billion in motor vehicles in 2012;
• The construction of large, luxury homes in many parts of the country;
• Visible evidence of a high standard of living for a significant number of people whose positions do not justify such life styles;
• Significant expenditure by individuals and firms linked to Marange including luxury apartments and houses, even high rise buildings in South Africa;
• Substantial investments by certain individuals connected to the Marange operations in many areas of Zimbabwe, including the purchase of buildings and companies;
• The expenditure of perhaps $300 million via the President’s Fund on free crop inputs, scholarships and bursaries;
• The purchase of two new long range Airbus Aircraft;
• Expenditures on military equipment and facilities that are not provided for in the State budget.
Mr Cross said that those who have benefitted so visibly from the illicit sales of Marange diamonds over the past 5 years should be required to pay compensation. (see: http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/nov24_2012.html#Z24 – Eddie Cross paper to Diamond Conference).
The Vigil is confident that Mines Minister Obert M’puffed-up will eventually have to explain how he acquired his enormous wealth. We were glad to see the detailed exposure of his financial dealings by Nehanda Radio (see: From Rags to Riches, the Obert Mpofu Story – http://nehandaradio.com/2012/11/16/from-rags-to-riches-the-obert-mpofu-story/). It sounds as if he will be joined in the dock by his MDC-T Mines deputy minister Gift Chimanikire (see: http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/nov23_2012.html#Z14 – MDC man backs Mpofu). Mr Chimanikire’s boot-licking is not doing MDC-T a service, feeding the impression that it is part of the gravy train.
We noted a report on Morgan Tsvangirai’s rally in Buhera which said ‘The vast difference between the villagers, desperately eking out a hand-to-mouth existence, and the lavish lifestyles of top MDC-T officials and ministers who rolled into Tsvangirai’s home area of Humanikwa village – about 200km away from their posh houses in Harare – in top-of-the-range vehicles and swanky attire, was all too visible.’ (See: Tsvangirai rally betrays widening affluence gap – http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/nov24a_2012.html#Z6).
• Mr M’puffed-up’s largesse with diamonds knows no bounds. He has proposed buying off civil society organisations with a share of diamond revenue so they will stop criticizing him. ‘One who pays the piper calls the tune,’ he said (see: http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/nov23_2012.html#Z2 – Civil Society angered by Mpofu diamond ‘bribe’).
• Thanks to Arnold Magwanyata of Zimbabwe We Can for making placards for the Wednesday demo.
• As we sheltered from the rain under our green tarpaulin today, we were approached by a passer-by in a yellow floral caftan pulling a bright pink shopping trolley adorned with yellow flowers. She said she was a Catholic missionary who had travelled widely in Africa. She said how wonderful the people are and how totally corrupt the politicians.
• A CD of Vigil songs is to be launched next week. It features Co-ordinator Dumi Tutani and Zimbabwean musician Farai Marema.
For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website – they cannot be downloaded from the slideshow on the front page of the Zimvigil website.
FOR THE RECORD: 42 signed the register.