10 August 2012

Zimbabwe: Diamonds Looting Persist in Zim

RECENT diamond figures released by the government have provided further proof that the country's gems are being looted, experts have claimed.

According to figures tabled in Parliament recently by the Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Gift Chimanikire, the country sold three million carats of diamonds in the first three months of the year, with Treasury receiving US$30 million.

But Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) Highfield East lawmaker Pearson Mungofa, who is a diamond cutter, said the figures do not add up and point to looting of the revenues.

The diamond cutter said there is no transparency in the valuing of the diamonds as well as their marketing, adding that government should have demanded that locals be trained in sorting, evaluation and security as did Botswana, so as not to rely on its foreign partners to do the job.

"Considering their grade, putting together the poor quality and high quality we can have an average of US$100 to give us US$300 million for those diamonds," said Mungofa.

"I travel around the world. The other time I saw a 27 carat diamond from Marange in South Africa that was being sold for US$5, 6 million. It was yellowish in colour. All over the world, diamonds are sold in US dollars."

Mungofa added that in 1989, he purchased equipment and set up a diamond factory in Harare, but has since dismantled it because the fact that he is a member of the MDC-T has been used to make sure that he does not get any jobs.

"I have been to Suraj in India, which is like that country's Antwerp. Our diamonds have helped them to create employment for one million people, yet our people have no jobs," he added.

Last month, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said lack of transparency in diamond sales had negatively impacted on the implementation of a number of national projects.

"The shortfall was mainly a result of limited revenue inflows particularly for those projects that had been earmarked for financing through diamond revenues as well as the compounding crowding out effect of the wage bill," said Biti.

"Major projects affected include the rehabilitation of Hwange Thermal Power Station, construction of Central Registry building, rehabilitation and construction of roads, rail and aviation infrastructure, construction of Tokwe-Murkosi dam as well as revitalisation of targeted health institutions, among other critical projects."

The shortfall was mainly a result of limited revenue inflows.

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