PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe claims that at least $15 billion was carted off Zimbabwe’s coffers from diamond proceeds could be a classic case of “a thief reporting themselves to police”, an influential gems lobby group, Global Witness, has said.
In a statement yesterday, Global Witness said Mugabe’s admission, made during his 92nd birthday interview early this month vindicated calls for reforms in the sector that the veteran ruler has rebuffed for over a decade.
Mugabe’s stunning admission —which has been received with anger and disbelief by opposition parties — came shortly after Mines and Mining Development minister Walter Chidakwa ordered all gem-mining firms out of the Marange diamond fields to make way for a State-controlled merger company.
“It is as if the President is complaining about his left hand stealing from his right hand,” Nick Donovan, Conflict and Fragile States director at Global Witness, said in a statement yesterday.
“It’s been clear for many years that Zimbabwe’s diamond industry needs to be radically reformed.
Any reforms must ensure that Zimbabwe’s security elite can no longer have illicit access
to the country’s diamond wealth. The diamond industry needs to become completely transparent and those involved held accountable for their actions”.
He added: “Zimbabwean law bizarrely vests mineral rights in the President, not the State. President Mugabe himself approved the operations of these companies, which he now says cannot be trusted”.
Donovan said investigations by Global Witness over the past four years had exposed links between “members of the security forces, controlled by the President, and some of the mining companies operating there”.
With Zimbabwe facing its worst drought in decades and as many as 3 million citizens waiting desperately for food aid, Mugabe has announced a state of disaster and appealed for aid. Global Witness said it was astounding that Mugabe was going out begging for assistance at the same time announcing the plunder of national resources.
“If $15 billion of diamond money really has gone missing from the diamond sector, that’s eight times what the government just appealed for in humanitarian aid in response to the current food crisis which has left 2,4 million people without enough daily food.
“Reform of the diamond sector could be a crucial opportunity for the almost three-quarters of the Zimbabwean population who live in poverty to finally receive some benefit from these precious stones,” Donovan said.
In a 2012 report, another respected mining watchdog, Partnership Africa Canada, lifted the lid on the murders and plunder in Marange blaming then Mines minister Obert Mpofu, Mugabe and the military.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars owed to Zimbabwe’s Treasury have been lost in both illegal and legal trades.
“Determining the actual amount is impossible, but in a February 2011 fiscal update, then Finance minister Tendai Biti complained $300 million collected by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe — two parastatals under Mpofu’s remit —had not arrived in State coffers,” the report said at the time.
It added that a 2,5-million carat stockpile had disappeared without trace under Mpofu and Mugabe’s nose in the wake of the controversial “Kinshasa Agreement” undertaken by the Kimberley Process in November 2011.-Newsday