Diamond airlifts exposed

robert_mhlanga(Pictured: Mbada boss, Retired Air Vice Marshal Robert Mhlanga, formerly Mugabes personal helicopter pilot, reported to be flying out diamonds)

HARARE Controversial mining house, Mbada Diamonds has been airlifting diamonds from Chiadzwa fields without the knowledge of the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) and flouting Kimberley Process (KP) procedures, a parliamentary committee heard on Monday.

Acting head of marketing at the MMCZ the sole marketing and selling agent of all minerals produced in the country Masimba Chandavengerwa told Parliaments mines and energy committee that although his organisation evaluates and monitors the diamonds, it has not been represented when the diamonds are airlifted from Mutare to Harare.

Mbada Investments is one of two companies with whom the government-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) entered into a joint venture late last year to mine the diamonds. The other firm is little-known South African company Core Mining.

Asked by Zanu (PF) legislator Simbaneuta Mudarikwa if the MMCZ was aware of the airlifting of diamonds from Chidzwa, Chandavengerwa stunned the committee saying; At the moment yes, (the airlifting is being done) without our knowledge.

He added that he was not aware of the MMCZ being involved in the contract negotiations between the government and the ZMDC.

Zimbabwe last month aborted a planned auction of 300 000 carats of diamonds from the Chiadzwa field after it emerged that KP procedures, including notification of relevant government departments and the police, had not been observed.

Responding to a question on the aborted sale the MMCZ official said: We were taken by surprise as this was not procedural. We explained to them (Mbada Diamonds) that procedures had to be followed, we also explained to them that the Kimberly Process had to be followed.

The Zimbabwean authorities agreed at the KP meeting in Namibia last November that all shipments from all production sites in the Marange field would be “subject to examination and certification by a KP monitor prior to export to ensure that the production and export of rough diamonds is compliant with the minimum standards of the KP”.

Mudarikwa conceded that in terms of systems there is work that has to be done to meet the KP standards. But he ruled out under-invoicing of diamonds by Mbada saying our own evaluators did the evaluation. Mbada also did their own, (whose results) which were very close.

Testifying before the same committee, senior assistant commissioner Silence Pondo, who heads the special minerals unit of the police, said: As the minerals unit, we did not take part in stopping the sale. We were not even involved.

A ZMDC official was chased out of the hearing by the committee, headed by Edward Chindori-Chininga, after he refused to divulge the composition of the Mbada board.

This is a deliberate ploy to hide information, said Mudarikwa, to which Chindori-Chininga added: This not acceptable.

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