23 November 2012

Zimbabwe: War Vets Join the Gravy Train to Diamond Money

The battle for the proceeds from Zimbabwe's diamond mining industry intensified this week, with a group of war vets demanding a share of diamond funds from government.

According to the independent Daily News newspaper, the new demands were confirmed by Andrew Ndlovu, secretary for projects in the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA).

Ndlovu is quoted as saying: "We are not asking them to pay us from their pockets. They do not have money but this country is rich and we are making lots of money from the sale of diamonds. They should pay us from that."

War veteran Max Mkandla, president of the Zimbabwe Liberators' Peace Initiative (ZLPI), dismissed the demands by Ndhlovu, saying that the diamond proceeds should benefit all Zimbabweans, not just war vets.

"Diamond money must be distributed to all organs of government and civic organisations that help Zimbabweans, police, teachers, nurses, doctors and others who should benefit from diamonds," Mkandla said.

He added that Ndlovu and the war vets are also part of the problem, because their acts of violence and threats against businesses chased away potential investors, affecting the country's economy.

Mkandla also blamed mismanagement and corruption for the lack of funds in the national coffers, saying Zimbabwe has many natural resources that can help the country develop if they are well managed.

Some war vets have been demanding more money from Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who said the government was broke as diamond money was not making it into the national coffers. Biti accused the military of creating a "parallel government" funded by stolen diamond revenue.

According to the Daily News, Ndlovu said war vets who have been demanding money from Biti "are knocking on the wrong door" because the Finance Minister cannot make those decisions.

"He cannot pay us on his own, he gets direction from a collective Cabinet

and we want the government and in particular those who lead it, to do

something now," Ndlovu reportedly said.

The demand comes just days after the Mines Minister Obert Mpofu offered to give 1% of the diamond proceeds to civic society organisations that he had accused of "peddling falsehoods" and "malicious reports" about the diamond industry.

Mpofu's offer was dismissed by the civic groups, who viewed it as a bribe intended to muzzle them and stop their demands for more accountability in diamond mining.

MP Eddie Cross, Secretary for Research and Policy Coordination, presented a paper at a Diamond Conference in Harare on Friday, which estimated that diamond production in 2012 yielded about 37 million carats, worth about $95 a carat or nearly $4 billion dollars.

He said the diamond fields at Marange cover an area of approximately 80,000 hectares, which geologists estimate to contain 2 to 7 billion carats of raw diamonds. This makes it one of the largest discoveries of its kind in the world, and explains the sudden rush for a slice and the secrecy involved in accounting for the funds.

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