This is among a raft of measures meant to stem the theft of gems, the Zimbabwe Independent learnt this week.
As revealed in February, substantial quantities of diamond ore were stolen from the ZCDC in January by a gang of armed men in millitary gear which overpowered the company’s security staff and held them hostage before escaping with valuable gemstones.
The January robbery was followed by yet another heist at the ZCDC in March, where a gang of armed robbers, in a similar style, overpowered the security staff in the mining area, and escaped with precious ore. The ZCDC said on both accounts the criminals only got away with “valueless” dump tailings.
In the aftermath of the robberies, the ZCDC board subsequently sacked its top executives, led by the then chief executive Morris Mpofu. Mpofu has since been dragged to the courts to answer allegations of corruption, specifically that he approved diamond sales to a blacklisted dealership.
The ZCDC’s acting chief executive officer Roberto di Pretto said that the mining firm would bolster its security system through the adoption of automated technology, while evaluating the assets of its employees, through a “lifestyle audit”.
“We are looking into the process of automation of the value chain which includes the sort-house and all other highly sensitive areas,” De Pretto said, noting that suspects implicated in the two heists were apprehended and appeared in court.
“We are also carrying out multi-layered extensive surveillance and thorough vetting of employees including lifestyle audits. The security around Chiadzwa is being enhanced through additional technological systems with a view to raise our security to world-class standards around the clock.”
The heists, which were preceded by the massive management shake-up at the state-owned mining enterprise, saw the 69th session of the United Nations (UN) plenary resolving to deliberate on whether Zimbabwean diamonds should be classified as conflict gems during the inter-governmental organisation’s 74th general assembly meeting agenda in March.
The meeting, bringing together heads of state from the UN’s 192 member countries, is scheduled to run from September 17-24 this year in New York, United States.
The development follows intense lobbying by a grouping of international civil society organisations affiliated to the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) urging the UN to review its definition of conflict diamonds in order to encompass Zimbabwe’s gemstones.
Zimbabwe will be barred from trading on the formal market, if the move by a consortium of civil society organisations sails through.
Under KPCS rules governing the international trade in the precious mineral, diamond mines must have tight security.
The robbery incidents add impetus to calls for the KPCS to widen the definition of conflict diamonds to also cover those being mined in Zimbabwe, which various interest groups say are being used to finance President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s violent suppression of dissent.
Currently, the organisations feel the definition of conflict diamonds — that they are gemstones which originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognised governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the UN Security Council — is inadequate.
This year, the ZCDC has conducted three diamond auctions with receipts from cumulative sales yet to be consolidated to determine how much the country has generated from the marketing of the precious mineral. Another auction sale will “soon” be conducted this year.
ZCDC, which was established in 2017 following the controversial termination of licences held by seven entities operating in Chiadzwa, is currently sitting on a 3.2 million carat stockpile.