MDC to stop Marange theft

After a heated debate in Parliament on Thursday the MDC managed to push through a motion aimed at stopping the theft of millions of dollars in revenue from the rich Marange diamond fields.

Bulawayo South MP Eddie Cross proposed the motion to nationalise the Marange diamonds. Despite vigorous opposition from Zanu (PF) MPs, many of whom are believed to be benefitting from the revenue, the motion was passed and now goes to the Prime Minister as leader of the House to take it to Cabinet.

Cross's plan includes moving everybody from the Marange site, fencing it, protecting it properly and then going out to tender for an operator.

"The Minister told us here just a few weeks ago that they were producing in 2010, 23 000 carats a day," Cross said. "We know from the facts on the ground that in fact production is substantially greater than that. We know that in fact sales from Chiadzwa last year exceeded $4 000 million. We are the custodians of the welfare of Zimbabwe and this resource is unique.

It belongs to the people of Zimbabwe and I believe that the only way to get control of this resource and to manage it properly is in fact to do exactly what this motion says – to nationalise it. This is exactly what Botswana did." All MDC legislators who rose to contribute to the motion backed Cross. Makoni West MP Webber Chinyadza said before nationalisation there should be a comprehensive forensic audit.

"It is important that the executive adequately capacitate the institution of the Comptroller and Auditor-General to enable it to audit the production and marketing processes on a regular basis," Chinyadza said. "This will enable this Parliament to practice effective oversight on this activity."

Chinyadza said there was "rampant under invoicing of the mineral by those responsible for marketing, the country is being short changed."

"We find it strange that the ministry of Finance is unable to direct ZIMRA to pitch tents at both the production sites and at the point of auction in an endeavour to maximise returns to the fiscus," he said.

The 60,000-hectare Marange diamond field is one of the biggest finds of alluvial diamonds ever. Potential revenue is estimated at between $1 billion and $1.7 billion a year, about a third of the country’s total forecast GDP this year and enough to end its economic woes almost at a stroke.

Highfield West MDC MP Simon Hove said: "We need to get rid of the current diamond actors in Chiadzwa because they are siphoning where the hopes of the civil servants lie, leaving them demoralised. I do not believe that includes Hon. Zhuwao because he is already benefiting. He belongs to a family that is benefiting."

Chikwinya said it was difficult to obtain the shareholding structure of Mbada and Canadile because they were both registered in Mauritius in 2009 and one needs a High Court order to obtain that information.

"That is why it is awash in the private media that the real people behind the Mbada diamonds are none other than the First Family," Chikwinya said.

He also questioned the joint venture between the Zimbabwe National Army and the Chinese company Anjin.

Minister Mpofu managed to by-pass the tender process by invoking the Official Secrets Act because he put the military personnel at the forefront of diamonds, the MDC MP said. "Again, we as Zimbabweans must find no reason why the military should be at the forefront of pursuing our economic activities to the extent of managing economic affairs at Chiadzwa," Chikwinya said.

"This was an obvious covert operation to ensure that there is no transparency and proper accountability to the operations at Chiadzwa."

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