Industrialists challenge location of diamond centre

Industrialists in the eastern region have challenged the location of a $200 million Zimbabwe Diamond Technology Centre under construction in Mt Hampden, Harare.

Joseph Kanyekanye:  specific industries are located near the resource.
Joseph Kanyekanye: specific industries are located near the resource.

The captains of industry argued that the diamond cutting and polishing facility should be located closer to the mineral source. Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Vice President, Henry Nemaire, said it defied logic for government to have Marange diamonds processed in Harare.

“In as much as we support the need for value addition and beneficiation of minerals, we question the logic behind the construction of a diamond cutting and polishing centre far away from where they are being extracted,” he said. “Diamond processing should take place here in Manicaland. The cutting and polishing centre should be constructed here.”

CZI past president and Allied Timbers Chief Executive Officer, Joseph Kanyekanye, agreed, saying “If you look as the setup of the industrial sector, you will note that specific industries are located near the resource, such as the timber industry.”

Giant timber industries such as Allied Timbers, Border Timbers Limited and the defunct Mutare Board and Paper Mills are all situated in the timber rich eastern province.

Challenges

Construction of the multi-million dollar diamond centre resumed in February and is expected to be complete by end of this year. It was initially projected to have been completed six months after it began in 2010.

The that target could not be reached owing to funding challenges and controversy shrouding the spearheading company Canadile Miners, which has been disbanded.

Canadile was kicked out of the Marange diamond fields following allegations that it siphoned out gems worth over $100 million that were sold on the black market. It was a partnership between Lovemore Kurotwi’s Core Mining and the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, which is the sole concession holder of the Marange diamond fields.

Kurotwi, who is also ZDTC chairman, told a parliamentary portfolio early this year that construction of the centre had resumed and expected to be complete by end of the year.

100,000 jobs

He said once fully completed, the centre would house 500 factories and create about 100,000 jobs.

The diamond centre will be responsible for all associates, including miners, diamond dealers, cutters and polishers, jewellers, financial institutions and government regulatory authorities.

The Zanu (PF) government recently called for value addition and beneficiation of all raw materials under its economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).

Exportation of Marange’s raw gems reportedly created 60,000 jobs in Surat, India and construction of a small town in China.Statistics gathered indicate that Zimbabwe could earn about $21 billion annually through selling finished jewellery products from the $71 billion likely to be generated by the world diamond industry.

Makes sense

Industry Minister Mike Bimha took heed of the call and said it made economic sense for the eastern region to have a diamond cutting and polishing centre as government stepped up value addition.

“It makes economic sense to have value addition closer to the location where the mineral is extracted. And for diamonds, yes the diamond cutting and polishing centre should be in Manicaland,” he said, bus hastened to point out that he did not have jurisdiction over the construction of the centre. He said he would engage Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa over the matter.

But Chidhakwa said Manicaland should lobby government to have its own centre rather than throwing spanners into a work in progress.

“If the concerns are that we also need a diamond cutting and polishing centre, I subscribe to that very much. What I do not subscribe to is a notion whereby, for instance, people from Mashonaland East demand to have tobacco auctions floors in their area because tobacco is grown there” he said.

“There are certain national institutions that should be located in the capital,” he added.

The business community in the eastern region has in the past castigated the set-up of the diamond sector, questioning why all the Marange diamond miners’ head offices are situated in Harare, with no sub-offices in Mutare.

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