Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Missing $15 billion haunts minister

By Andrew Kunambura

Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu, who superintended over the Mining ministry during the heydays of harvesting diamonds from the gems-rich Chiadzwa fields is to be hauled before Parliament to explain the alleged missing $15 billion worth of the precious stones — as the government hunts for answers on the emotive issue.

Obert Mpofu
Obert Mpofu

Walter Chidakwa — who succeeded Mpofu at the ministry, and who was fired from the government following the dramatic fall of former president Robert Mugabe last year — is also expected to appear in due course before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development which is chaired by Norton MP Temba Mliswa.

The Marange diamond fields in Manicaland Province, which are located a few kilometres outside Mutare, were discovered in 2006 and are considered to be one of the world’s biggest deposits of diamonds.

“We want the ministers to appear before the committee as soon as possible, most probably at our first meeting in 2018. It’s pretty clear that this issue has to be brought to an end soon.

“There are many people who were involved in diamond mining and the responsible ministers during this time were Mpofu and Chidakwa … and they should be able to help shed light on the diamond operations,” Mliswa told the Daily News in an interview yesterday.

“This is not a witch-hunt, it’s just about accountability … which is why we want bring the former ministers before the Parliamentary committee to account for the concessions that they gave and to reveal how much was generated, how much went to the Kimberly Process and so forth,” he added.

At the height of the mining of diamonds in Marange, Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Kusena and Gye Nyame were some of the companies which were involved in the extraction of the gems in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).

The mining companies were expelled from Chiadzwa after Mugabe made the startling claim that his government had lost a jaw-dropping $15 billion to alleged nefarious activities by some of the diamond mining firms.

In a controversial move, the government subsequently fired and replaced the mining companies with the State-owned Zimbabwe Diamond Consolidated Company which now exclusively carries out all the mining in the area.

Speaking to the ZBC in 2016 on the occasion of his 92nd birthday, Mugabe stunned Zimbabweans when he said his government had received little from diamond mining at Chiadzwa — further suggesting that the companies which were involved in the extraction of the gems there had robbed the State.

“We’ve not received much from the diamond industry at all. I don’t think we’ve exceeded $2 billion, yet we think more than $15 billion has been earned,” Mugabe said then.

In 2012, long before Mugabe alleged that the $15 billion had been spirited away, a watchdog group campaigning against “blood” diamonds had also released a damning report in which it alleged that more than $2 billion worth of diamonds had been stolen from the Marange fields.

It also claimed that Mugabe’s inner circle, together with some international dealers and a large network of criminals had connived in “the biggest single plunder of diamonds the world has seen since Cecil Rhodes”.

“Marange’s potential has been overshadowed by violence, smuggling, corruption and most of all, lost opportunity.

“The scale of illegality is mind-blowing” and has spread to compromise most of the diamond markets of the world,” Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) alleged in its report that was titled: Reap What You Sow — Greed and Corruption in Zimbabwe’s Marange Diamond Fields.

The planned appearances of Mpofu and Chidakwa before Parliament comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa has raised hopes that the government will finally provide answers to the missing $15 billion.

Anti-corruption watchdogs and opposition groups have welcomed his tough rhetoric against graft, including his three-month moratorium on people who externalised foreign currency — saying it will help the government to recover some of the money that was stolen during Mugabe’s controversial rule.

Mnangagwa invoked Presidential Powers last month and gazetted the three-month moratorium within which those involved in the illegal externalisation of money and assets can bring back their loot with no questions being asked — or risk charges being preferred against them.

“The period of this amnesty stretches from December 1, 2017 to the end of February 2018. Affected persons who wish to comply with this directive should liaise with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for the necessary facilitation and accounting.

“Upon the expiry of the three-month window, government will proceed to effect arrests of all those who would not have complied with this directive, and will ensure that they are prosecuted in terms of the country’s laws.

“Those affected are thus encouraged to take advantage of this three-month moratorium to return the illegally externalised funds and assets in order to avoid the pain and ignominy of being visited by the long arm of the law,” Mnangagwa said.

Before he became president, Mnangagwa had said the government had ordered a forensic audit of the seven companies that were mining in Chiadzwa as part of the investigations regarding the missing $15 billion.

“You said there was $15 billion stolen. What it then says is that there’s an investigation, where there’s an investigation there’s an allegation, and where there’s an allegation there’s a prima facie case … there’s a possibility that the thing happened.

“You properly said there is $15 billion which is being investigated, which means the issue of $15 billion is under investigation, using your own terms, to establish whether it actually happened and if it did, that is corruption.

“And up to now, that hasn’t been concluded. There were something like seven companies and each company will be subjected to a forensic audit to establish during the past five or six years, what it did. A forensic audit on each company will be done.

“A forensic audit has been instituted against all the seven companies. They will be audited to discover whether this happened or not, and those who will be found through the forensic audit will account for the resource they have stolen from this country. That is the essence about the $15 billion question,” Mnangagwa told a business forum at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in 2016. DailyNews