There has been a fresh wave of systematic diamond looting involving mining companies’ staff, security and army generals following the announcement by Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa that government will work with only one company to exploit diamonds in Marange.
There have been repeated complaints that most of the diamonds from the mining fields have been diverted to the black market, hence poor revenue flows into government coffers.
“There is laxity in security and panic as employees, some of them senior, are not sure of their fate following the decision to mainstream mining activities at Marange,” said a reliable source.
“Employees, particularly those involved in sorting, are colluding with company security at most of the mining companies to smuggle out mostly gem-quality diamonds that are then sold both locally and outside the country,” he added.
The source, who asked not to be named, said there was a steep resurgence in illegal diamond dealing in Marange, with high profile buyers now a common sight in the area where the gems are sold even at business centres through named middle men.
A local, Malvern Mudiwa, is reported to be one of the main buyers and reportedly smuggles the diamonds out of Marange to markets in Harare. He is said to have amassed vast wealth, with a posh house in Chisipite, another upmarket home in Norton and several properties that include state of the art vehicles, lorries and shops “despite going only as far as Grade 2 primary education”.
Mudiwa is the chairperson of the Marange Development Trust (MDT), which was registered on May 6 this year. He accepted having dealt in illegal diamond trade before, but said he had since stopped.
“Smuggling of diamonds is the work of insiders at the mining companies and other dealers. I stopped dealing in diamonds long back. In fact I am under the spotlight as CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation and CID (Criminal Investigation Department) are closely watching me,” Mudiwa told The Zimbabwean.
He insisted that he acquired his properties and businesses from various ventures that included precast wall manufacturing from as way back as 1998 and after a stint as an economic migrant in the UK.
Most of the company insiders, particularly sorters and those working the plants, are now leading lives not commensurate with their employment incomes. “The smugglers are also getting protection from members of the CID Minerals section, who get kickbacks from the looters and dealers,” said the source.
Currently, seven firms operate in Chiadzwa, namely Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Gye Nyame, Jinan, Kusena, Marange Resources and Mbada Diamonds, with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation holding stakes in all the firms.
Recently, several workers from one of the mining companies were arrested for allegedly conniving with a local businessman in Mutare to smuggle out the gems from the firm.
A staff member from the Centre for Research and Dialogue (CRD), which advocates for transparent resource extraction, lent weight to reports of the siphoning of diamonds at Marange, saying “The situation is very painful. We have gathered that there are numerous channels through which the diamonds are being stolen. Insiders are paying security personnel to get the diamonds out. It is clear that Marange has once again become a theatre for rampant illicit diamond sales.
“The military—and I am not talking of ordinary soldiers here—are also involved. Again, there is collusion with foreign traders who are sold gem-quality diamonds but end up declaring at auctions broken and low value minerals,” said the official.
He said government had abdicated its oversight role ahead of the reduction of diamond mining players in the Marange fields. Anjin’s Harare International Airport sorting plant is not monitored, creating space for theft.
“We were recently alerted to a new trend whereby some of the mining companies and individuals are smuggling diamonds out of the country by stuffing them into pieces of sculpture to avoid detection,” he said.
Freeman Bhoso, the Executive Director of Zimbabwe Natural Resources Dialogue Forum, urged government to immediately stop all the diamond firms from operating in order to pave way for the transition to a new extraction order whereby it would partner only one company.
“Government must arrange a mining ownership transition that includes an immediate cessation of all mining operations to allow for an independent and comprehensive audit of all mining companies and make public the findings,” said Bhoso.
He said government must also engage credible experts to undertake a mineral survey of the diamonds at Marange to ascertain the quality and quantity of the remaining deposits. “The survey is critical as a negotiating instrument for future engagement with local and foreign partners,” said Bhoso.
Several attempts to get a comment from Chidhakwa were fruitless. The Zimbabwean