Diamond rush changes face of Mutare(01-02-07)



By ITAI DZAMARA
MUTARE - A recent trip to the eastern border city of Mutare revealed how people can scrounge for anything, and allow the worst kinds of decadence when pushed to the wall.
The city has assumed a new

face. Unprecedented numbers of commercial sex workers, visitors, ranging from rich locals, to Chinese, South Africans and Indians, and the latest models of cars are now in evidence. Added to all these is an unusually heavy presence of police officers, both in uniform and plain clothes.
Over all this is a sea of cash – local currency plus major foreign currency denominations.
“We have permanently settled here and business is good,” said Thandiwe Dube, a commercial sex worker who spoke to The Zimbabwean. “Of course, we can’t avoid battles with the police but we know our ways around them…. Ya-a you either pay them or offer them sex for both protection and release when arrested.”
But why the new face for Mutare?
The locals, just like any other Zimbabweans hard-pressed by the unprecedented economic hardships caused by Mugabe’s insatiable lust for power, have left no stone unturned in scrounging for survival.
In doing so, they discovered some diamond deposits in Marange community last year,
It turned out to be real! They were real diamonds, and so hungry villagers took off to an occupation they had never dreamt of – mining.
The first grams were prepared and some clever and alert business people in town bought them for peanuts.
Soon, like a whirlwind, news spread and, starting with those from the surrounding communities, people descended on the diamond deposits. In no time it was everyone from everywhere and the reality of man’s hunger for money struck Mutare.
Visitors from Harare and later outside the country, of all races and religions suddenly inundated the Mutare highway and money started changing hands big time.
“At first we were really cheated by those who initially came to buy the diamonds because they paid us as little as Z$5000 for 50 grams of diamond. But with more and more people coming, things improved drastically such that I can even make up to $1 million per day,” said Wisdom Gore, a korokoza (miner), who claims to have been among the first group to discover the diamond reserves.
Hundreds of the miners joined in. Unemployed youths and other enterprising individuals made themselves marketing executives, buying the mineral from miners and selling them.
Not to be outdone were other Mutare residents, who rushed into establishing fly-by-the-night catering companies operating from under a tree, shebeens and accommodation facilities.
Most lodges and restaurants are dominated by commercial sex workers, who book them in advance as an easy way of getting to clients.
Unavoidably, the Mugabe regime was going to discover this development in Mutare and respond. The ubiquitous Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Gideon Gono expectedly called on the korokozas to be stopped and the mining to be done by the state to raise desperately needed foreign currency.
The trigger-happy, yet also very corruption-prone Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) descended on Mutare in huge numbers. “We have been here for several months now and actually have shifts to operate and patrol the area,” said a police officer speaking on condition of anonymity. With an air of apprehension he added, “Yes we have also made money. Some of us have dared enough to use the authority we have to get the diamonds and sell to visitors whilst the easier way is of course getting bribes from everyone left, right and centre, the miners, middle man or buyers.”
This writer established that it has become a standard to most people, including commercial sex workers, that police officers should be bribed by a minimum of $50,000 once they catch someone and threaten to arrest.
That notwithstanding, quite a number of people have been arrested and arraigned before the courts, where the story is more or less the same. Public prosecutors, and the equally poorly paid Magistrates shall also have fond memories of their time of fortune in Mutare during the diamond era.
Capitalising on people’s lack of knowledge as well as their desire to be released and go out to make more money, authorities at the courts are taking bribes for granting of bail, acquittal and other things.
“I was arrested after being found with $10 million and 100 grams of diamond. I paid the public prosecutor $200 000 and gave him another $300 000 he claimed was for the Magistrate so that I could be granted bail,” said a dealer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Right now I am working with guys at the courts who say they can make the papers disappear and kill the case. Obviously they need money,” he added.
In addition to the deployment of the police and RBZ officials, the troubled Zanu (PF) leader has appointed a task force led by minister of mines Amos Midzi to come up with ways in which the State can take over from the hungry peasants and mine the diamond.
Midzi has recently said plans would start soon for work to commence in a “legal and planned way”.

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