Mine workers tell of planes flying diamonds away as Zimbabwe claim $15 billion of gems missing

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Workers at diamond mining companies that were operating at Chiadzwa say there are high chances of pilferage of the precious stone which resulted in the country losing about $15 billion.

President Robert Mugabe revealed last month during his 92nd birthday interview with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation that the country received less than $2 billion out of a possible $15 billion from the Chiadzwa diamonds where more than five companies were licensed to operate.

The Zimbabwe Diamond Miners Workers Union (ZDMWU) told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment chaired by Zanu-PF MP for Gokwe-Nembudziya, Justice Mayor Wadyajena, that proceeds from diamonds extraction were not commensurate with money derived from their sale.

ZDMWU president, Francis Matinyarare said the government should have consulted workers when the companies were still operating, to help plug the leaks.

“It’s clear that these mines while still operating, couldn’t pay workers which means something terribly wrong was happening,” said Matinyarare.

“For example, at DMC (Diamond Mining Corporation), we’ve seen that those who sit in the boardroom aren’t Zimbabweans and aren’t the workers that we would want to be there.

“The destination of the monies and everything still remains a mystery up to today. But because we’re owed monies for what we worked for, for a certain period of time, it actually points to a fact that though the diamonds were being mined and we would see aeroplanes flying those diamonds away every day, they were saying the companies weren’t making profits.

“We assume the diamonds were put on the plane because they were going to the market. If they were going to the market and the money isn’t coming and the companies are saying they’re broke, we assume that the money is where the diamonds were sent to.”

Wadyajena asked Matinyarare to confirm if he meant that the companies externalised money from diamond sales.

Responded Matinyarare: “Today we’re mining diamonds. I’m staying in a one-roomed barrack where we’re housed 16 at a time. This one’s a picker, the other one’s at the mine, this one’s an operator and we talk.

“They’ll say the ore today was producing lots and lots of diamonds. Someone says, today in our line, we produced about five cups of diamonds, the other one says in our line there was this big diamond and the Chinese would fly in to come and see it. There were two incidents like that.”

ZDMWU secretary-general Justice Chinhema said it was disturbing that $15 billion from diamond proceeds could not be accounted for.

“It’s a well-known fact that the government, through Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation owned 50 percent of the companies mining in Chiadzwa.

“All this (pilferage) happened under the noses of ZMDC, Ministry of Mines and State security departments. We believe that if the worker was recognised as a key stakeholder, most of the unanswered questions and pilferage could’ve been stopped. As workers, we’ve critical information which could easily have exposed the rot. Remember, it’s the worker who does the actual mining of the precious stone, so in terms of production figures, the worker knows what was being mined,” said Chinhema.

The government is in the process of investigating Chiadzwa diamond mining companies to ascertain how much the country lost through pilferage, said Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

He made the remarks in the Senate yesterday while responding to questions from legislators concerning the whereabouts of the $15 billion worth of diamonds.

VP Mnangagwa said a forensic audit of the mining companies was underway.

“The disappearance of the $15 billion reflects a high level of corruption. The government is in the process of investigating. There’s a forensic audit being done.

“If the President said it happened (missing of the diamonds), it means he has some facts and this is the reason why investigations are underway. It means there’s a prima farce case,” he said.

VP Mnangagwa said Parliament also has the right to instigate an investigation into such matters.

“Parliament has the constitutional right to also call for investigations,” he said.-Zimpapers

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