Bring Back our $15 billion – Welshman Ncube
By Professor Welshman Ncube
During the tenure of the Inclusive Government of February 2009 to July 2013, President Robert Mugabe was repeatedly informed on the high-level shenanigans that were part of a stealth and deliberate conspiracy to rob Zimbabweans of their natural endowments in diamonds at Chiadzwa.
In fact, the then Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, even attempted to lead a Parliamentary delegation for an on -site ministerial audit at the diamond fields, but all in vain.
The arrogance and defiance shown by the then Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Obert Mpofu with the support of President Mugabe was so blatant that it was impossible to even get him to attend Parliamentary Committee meetings to discuss the subject.
Hon. Mpofu was even dragged through litigation by Canadile Miners Deputy Chairman Lovemore Kurotwi who accused him of soliciting a ten million dollar bribe from Core Mining and Minerals company.
The daylight robbery was evident in that most, if not all diamond mines in Manicaland region had one form or another of military or ZANU PF crony connection. Only at one solitary time did President Mugabe accuse former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation boss Goodwills Masimirembwa of diamond corruption exposed by Ghanaian businessman William Ato Essien, a member of Gye Nyame consortium.
Nothing became of this public accusation. Multimillionaire Robert Mhlanga, Chairperson of Mbada Diamonds, one of the biggest mining companies operating at Marange, was alleged to have gone on a shopping spree of high value real estate in Ballito, Durban and Sandton, Johannesburg. Mr. Mhlanga is said to be a confidante and former personal pilot of President Robert Mugabe.
I could go on without end reciting the painful tales of how diamond scandal after scandal was in the headlines, yet President Mugabe was largely silent. His spin doctors like George Charamba and Professor Jonathan Moyo revved up emotions against the MDCs and civil society on the basis that sanctions against Zimbabwe did not allow for transparent diamond marketing.
The then Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono, attempted to pull the wool over our faces by pretending to preside over ‘open diamond auctions’ in Harare to dupe Zimbabwean sympathisers in the Kimberley Process. This process had reasons to worry because the world had witnessed how blood diamonds caused havoc in Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In a report entitled ‘Conflict Diamonds, The Kimberley Process and the Loopholes that Persist’ by Dr. Paul D. Scott; Chairperson, International Advisory Council it is stated that ‘Robert Mugabe and his security forces are directly linked to poor working conditions and abuses of internationally recognized human rights standards dating back to the DRC war.
This ‘social consciousness’ explains why Farai Maguwu of Mutare Centre for Research and Development, an organisation with an interest in research and advocacy around the issues of diamond mining in Marange, was arrested repeatedly for his contacts with Kimberley Process monitor Abbey Chikane on evidence of alleged military abuses.’
In Zimbabwe, a month never passes without one of President Mugabe’s cronies flaunting his wealth. In fact, the president’s coterie of erstwhile cronies in the elite ‘sticky fingers club’ have accumulated so much wealth that they have become a law unto themselves.
Unlike all other political parties, ZANU PF never runs short of resources to host elaborate ‘meet-the-people’ tours, all patronised by the ‘diamond club’ members ever so quick to make donations. This is amidst the grinding poverty, drought and infrastructure dilapidation the rest of Zimbabweans are subjected to.
No doubt Zimbabweans at home and the world over are exasperated by President Mugabe’s admission that indeed fifteen billion dollars’ worth of diamond revenue was Nicodemously spirited out of Zimbabwe by diamond companies.
If one puts this allegation against the prism of IMF’s demand for accountability, the tax department’s desperate search for revenue and of course, the country’s cry for help to mitigate drought, you can only conclude that the old man has lost control.
His lieutenants make noise about ZimAsset, as some choke foreign companies by demanding ‘indigenous shareholding’ so as to finance social projects. Why go through this painful process instead of just recovering our money?
The MDC demands that a proper audit by an independent team of experts be done in order to determine the quantum of pillaging of these diamond resources. All the companies in Marange are known, as are their boards of directors.
We should not be hood winked into believing that the new Minister of Mines, Walter Chidhakwa is committed to unearthing the rot by merely ‘closing’ the companies. Zimbabwe is desperate for resources to re-start our stagnant economy, so those culprits who smuggled out the fifteen billion dollars’ worth of diamonds should be brought to book without further delays. It is no longer enough just to talk about it.
We have always said the Robert Mugabe regime is not transparent, preferring opaque systems that blur the dividing line between State and Party. Our philosophy of devolution has accumulated capital even in Manicaland where ZANU PF apologists like Christopher Mushowe, Hlanganiso Matangaidze and Mandi Chimene are on record questioning the value addition of diamond resources.
Even the so-called community share ownership schemes that former Minister for Indigenization, Saviour Kasukuwere trumpeted so loudly have come unstuck in Marange. Thus from the side of MDC, the answer does not lie in accusations and counter accusations.
Zimbabwe has enough expertise in international audit companies; not to mention the Kimberly Process itself, to unearth the diamond smuggling rot. It is now up to us as leaders of political parties, to inspire the nation for a massive campaign to force the ruling party to bring back our fifteen billion dollars.