By Kenneth Matimaire
MUTARE — Closed Chiadzwa diamond mining firms are alleged to have been operating mafia-like syndicates to deprive Treasury of billions of greenbacks in potential revenue with the aid of influential politicians in government.
Impeccable sources revealed this week that the diamond miners were feeding parallel foreign markets in Asia with top gems and pocketing the proceeds while declaring poor quality gems to government.
The leaked diamonds ended up in Dubai and Hong Kong piled there using private planes.
Sources said powerful figures in government, working in cahoots with the syndicates, used their political muscles to bar authorities from searching the private planes before they left the country.
President Robert Mugabe disclosed recently that US$15 billion worth of diamonds were externalised, with Treasury receiving less than US$2 billion during the last six years.
In the past, members of the civil society have highlighted in several reports the plunder of diamonds in Chiadzwa. Former finance minister, Tendai Biti, also indicated during his tenure in government that Treasury was not receiving proceeds from Chiadzwa, remarks which have been echoed by his successor, Patrick Chinamasa.
Mines and Mining Development Minister, Walter Chidhakwa, has ordered a forensic audit of the mining activities at all diamond mines stretching as far back as 2009 when their operations commenced.
An irate Chidhakwa said the recent decision to kick the miners out of Chiadzwa came after discovering that top quality gems were being siphoned out of the country with the blessings of some influential politicians.
“At some point, government was selling (top quality) gems at US$19 000 per carat, for a 10-carat diamond. We later discovered that all the 10 carat stones were being scatted and sold elsewhere while they (diamond companies) declared near gems (of poor quality) to government. That got us angry,” said Chidhakwa during a recent tour of Manicaland province’s Chimanimani area.
“Nobody has power to deprive Zimbabwe of a mineral that benefits Zimbabweans. We don’t care whether it’s religious, political or whatever (leaders), we don’t care. We will not tolerate it anymore.
“Some thought they were never going to leave Chiadzwa, but where are they now? They had people who protected them, but we want to see who will protect them now. That is what we want to see, the politicians who protected them to loot this country, to loot diamonds while we watch.
“This government can’t pay its workers while someone is living lavishly and looting diamonds right under our nose. No, we can’t tolerate that,” Chidhakwa fumed.
The companies kicked out of Chiadzwa are as follows: Anjin Investments, Mbada Diamonds, Diamond Mining Corporation, Jinan Mining and Kusena Diamonds.
The expulsion only spared Marange Resources, wholly-owned by government.
Mining will now be conducted by the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC).
ZCDC will operate under a stringent framework whereby it would be required to declare monthly profits as opposed to the annual dividends, which have been subject to abuse.
The new mining set up, to be enforced by amendments to the Mines and Minerals Act, will plug all loopholes in the industry, according to Chidhakwa. Anjin and Mbada have since challenged government in court over their expulsion from Chiadzwa.
But the High Court last week ruled against Anjin, while Mbada received a temporary reprieve a few weeks ago. Concerns have been raised on numerous occasions on why the discovery of gems in Chiadzwa estimated to constitute 20 percent of the world’s demand, had failed to turn around the economy.
Last year, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) told the Financial Gazette that diamond firms were working in cahoots with influential politicians to siphon Marange gems to Asia. ZFTU secretary-general, Kenias Shamuyarira, said syndicates were funnelling diamonds using private planes that were not subjected to searches.
He said being an ally of ZANU-PF, ZFTU had used its links with the ruling party to obtain information regarding the pillaging of Chiadzwa diamonds.
Former ZANU-PF secretary of administration and founding member of opposition party, Zimbabwe People First, Didymus Mutasa told the Financial Gazette recently that ZANU-PF’s most influential politicians were behind diamond looting in Chiadzwa.
“When we still had the Government of National Unity, Mr (Tendai) Biti kept asking where the diamond money was going as it was not finding its way to Treasury. We then discovered those who benefitted from diamonds in Chiadzwa,” said Mutasa.
Despite having been discovered in 2006 with proper mining commencing in 2009, the Chiadzwa area remains underdeveloped. The US$50 million Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust has remained a pie in the sky after the five mining companies that had pledged to disburse US$10 million each later reneged on their obligations.
Only a mere US$400 000 found its way into the trust’s coffers. Financial Gazette