A forensic audit is underway to establish the quantity and value of gems that Zimbabwe lost through leakages at the Chiadzwa diamond fields Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa said today.
Last month, President Robert Mugabe said that the country had lost diamonds worth $15 billion, a revelation that rattled a country whose government is entirely funded by taxes and is struggling to provide basic services while millions of its population are jobless.
Despite frequent reports of smuggling from the vast Chiadzwa fields where institutions such as the police, army and some Chinese firms were involved in the mining activities, the value of the loss had never been quantified since operations began over five years ago.
And parliamentarians today asked Chidhakwa if he had any knowledge about the disappearance of the diamonds and the people who were involved.
Chidhakwa appeared to cast doubt on Mugabe’s claim that $15 billion worth of diamonds vanished saying “the figure is in the process of being established.”
“We have started a process of establishing why and how it happened and how much it is,” Chidhakwa told the national assembly.
“Once the forensic audit is done, we will bring it to Parliament.”
Most of the leakages are said to have occurred during the tenure of Obert Mpofu, who was Mines Minister between 2009 and 2013, and there have been calls from civil society and the general public for him to be called to account.
Chidhakwa was appointed to head the ministry in September 2013. Last month government ordered diamond miners in the Chiadzwa area to cease operations to pave way for its wholly-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Mining Company (ZCDC) as part of initiatives to improve transparency and accountability in the sector.
Government said its new model has been successfully applied in neighbouring countries such as Botswana to improve earnings from the mining and marketing of the gems.
Question and Answer in Parliament:
*HON. CHAMISA: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I have been challenged by this issue because you know that the issue of diamonds and minerals is a challenge. Minister, there is a rumour that we have lost US$15 billion as a country. Do you know anything about the missing money? If you are not aware, do you know anyone who caused the disappearance of that money because it is a lot of money and people are troubled? Old people are not sleeping and widows are being pained to learn that such a huge amount of money can just disappear under the nose of engineers and miners. Thank you Mr. Speaker?
HON. CHIDHAKWA: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I wondered as he was speaking whether it was indeed linked to the primary question as it does appear to be a new question; as such Mr. Speaker, the figures are in the process of being established. A former MDC member once talked about US$14 billion and we have triggered a process of establishing how it happened, how much it is in specific terms. I want to say that, once the forensic report has been completed, we will bring it to Parliament and report on the matter. Thank you.