Disappearing diamond revenue

With the admission, although later hurriedly retracted, by the MDC-T deputy mines minister Gift Chimanikire, that the army partly owns Marange’s biggest diamond mining company, Anjin, it has become clear why

Workers demand a share of the Zimbabwe’s diamonds during the 2012 May Day celebrations in Harare Gardens.
Workers demand a share of the Zimbabwe’s diamonds during the 2012 May Day celebrations in Harare Gardens.

Zimbabweans have a well-founded fear that diamond revenue will be used to fund a violent election.

In recent weeks a number of senior army officials including Major-Generals Chedondo and Mugoba have publicly declared their association and allegiance to Zanu (PF), and in turn, the former liberation movement has made public calls for the new constitution to enshrine the right of soldiers to participate in party politics. Credible reports, confirmed by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Finance Minister Tendai Biti, point to a massive recruitment drive into the security forces in the last few months alone.

Another thing that has become clear with time is that the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme made a monumental blunder when it cleared Marange diamonds to be sold internationally, notwithstanding a glaring failure by the government of Zimbabwe to address serious human rights abuses perpetrated in the diamond fields mainly by the army since 2008.

There is total lack of accountability regarding the diamond revenue, amid widespread speculation that while the Chinese, through the company Anjin, may be creaming some of the revenue, most of it may be used to fund a violent election on a scale worse than witnessed in 2008.

That Marange diamond revenue is disappearing into thin air, should not come as a surprise. Senior Zanu (PF) official and Mines Minister Obert Mpofu had elaborately set the stage early for diamond revenue to be channelled away from treasury through the establishment of companies to mine diamonds under unclear circumstances, with unknown share-holding structures contrary to the requirements of laws regarding due diligence and public tender procedures.

In 2008 Mpofu orchestrated the booting out of legitimate mining company, African Consolidated Resources and in July and August of the same year licensed Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Miners to mine for Marange diamonds. It is on public record that the leadership of these companies is closely aligned to Zanu (PF) and particularly to President Mugabe, with the Chairman of Mbada Diamonds, Robert Mhlanga, having served as Mugabe’s personal helicopter pilot for some 20 years.

Further, the minister of mines granted a mining licence to a group of serving soldiers who partnered with the Chinese to form Anjin company. Again the operations are opaque and production figures are disputed.

Research into the quality of Marange diamonds, including by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme suggests that the diamonds are 15 per cent high quality gemstones and 85 per cent cheaper, industrial diamonds. Unofficial estimates presented to Parliament are that Mbada diamonds realised an astonishing $1,4 billion for actual raw diamond sales in 2010 and $1,7 billion in 2011.

Taking the other mining companies into account estimated annual sales from Marange diamond fields could be over $4 billion dollars a year. Amid strong suspicions that Mpofu has repeatedly misled Parliament on the issue of the magnitude and value of diamond sales from the Marange fields, finance minister Tendai Biti disclosed that in 2010 government only received $80 million.

Civil Society groups have battled to access the Marange diamond fields to investigate human rights abuses and to trace diamond revenue to see if it is benefiting the people of Zimbabwe in any way. A recent investigation was frustrated by lack of access to credible information pointing to a deliberate attempt by companies involved to hide relevant data and information. It is clear that the nation is not benefiting as much as it should from diamond revenue accruing for Marange. In Botswana, where similar conditions prevail in the diamond industry, over two thirds of all revenue from the sale of raw diamonds accrues to the State.

As a result of continued lack of transparency and accountability regarding diamond revenue and its failure to benefit the people of Zimbabwe at large, civil society groups have recommended the ownership model at Marange Resources of 100% control by the state. This position is supported by the senior officials in the MDC, who have called for the Marange deposits to be brought under direct government control to ensure a full measure of transparency and accountability. – Mavhinga is Regional Coordinator, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

Post published in: Analysis

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