Mines minister Obert Mpofu last week warned cabinet ministers who have not contributed "a penny" to the diamonds sector to stop demanding accountability in the mining and marketing of the gems from Chiadzwa.
Mpofu's remarks, made at the Mine Entra held in Bulawayo last week, were not surprising given Zanu PF's dogged efforts to maintain their stranglehold on the Marange diamonds.
The party, which is benefiting from opaque handling of minerals, has given so many excuses, among them "sanctions busting", in a bid to prevent coalition partners and the civic society from scrutinising the mining operations.
Independent estimates show that several millions of carats have been mined from the diamond-rich area since 2009 and only Zanu PF politicians and a coterie of military personnel know the amounts realised to date. This year alone, companies are targeting 12 million carats in output, the majority being from Marange. Clearly, such quantities make it imperative that there be transparency and accountability if the nation is to benefit from its natural resources.
Finance minister Tendai Biti is on record saying diamond proceeds are not flowing into Treasury. He has also pointed out that there are too many leakages on the entire value chain -- from diamond mining to marketing.
There is no doubt that lack of transparency spawns illicit trade in diamonds and the smuggling thereof. If operations of mining companies are above board, one wonders why Mpofu is against accountability.
By favouring the status quo, Mpofu is sheltering those who may be benefiting from the industry and are keen to continue pillaging the resources, at the expense of the majority. Such an unpalatable scenario makes the case for reform, as proposed by Biti in his mid-term fiscal policy review, more compelling.
The minister wants to see far-reaching reforms in the manner diamonds are mined and marketed. He also proposes that Zimra be placed in the entire value chain to force companies to change their mode of operation.
Biti will obviously face resistance from Zanu PF, but he should be emboldened by the fact that the status quo is unsustainable; and the people know it.