Zimbabwe: Political Elite Looting Gems - TI-Z

THERE is an urgent need to enact a Diamond Act to curb massive looting of gems by the country's political elite, Transparency International-Zimbabwe (TI-Z) has said.

Preliminary findings of the study by TI-Z titled, State of Corruption in the Mining Sector -- The Case of Gold, Diamond and Platinum Mining in Kwekwe, Gwanda, Marange and Mhondoro-Ngezi, noted that some areas where there is illegal gold or diamond mining were not raided by the police because they were "protected" by influential politicians.

"The absence of a Diamond Act has promoted a free-for-all scenario in diamond trade where the power elites have literally acted in a liassez faire fashion to enrich themselves from diamond mining," the study said.

The findings have been released at a time when there has been a lot of acrimony within the inclusive government and protest by civil society over the lack of transparency on how the country's diamond revenues were being used.

Finance minister Tendai Biti has in the past accused senior Zanu PF officials and members of the security forces of looting diamonds from Marange fields with little sale proceeds trickling into Treasury.

However, Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Obert Mpofu has previously attributed the lack of transparency to attempts by the European Union and United States to stifle the trading of Zimbabwe's diamonds.

The study said politicians were influencing the awarding of diamond mining contracts for companies extracting gems in Marange.

"Currently there is no transparent and accountable process in which concessions to mine diamonds in Zimbabwe are awarded," reads the study. "Basing on evidence prevailing on the ground, the study found out that all the companies that have been given mining rights to mine diamonds in Zimbabwe are those with close links to senior politicians in government and the military."

It says failure by diamonds mining firms to remit their contributions directly to the Ministry of Finance further created a veil of secrecy already shrouding diamond mining in the country.

The study said while there has been little remittances to Treasury, "the unexplained accumulation of wealth by senior government ministers and the top military brass with close links to diamond mining in Marange is a clear indication of abuse of position, authority and influence for self-enrichment at the expense of the majority who have to make with poorly equipped hospitals, clinics and schools".

The paper notes that power elites prejudiced the country of revenues that were supposed to ensure that schools, hospitals and clinics and roads were maintained.

The TI-Z study says senior politicians had formed syndicates with police officers and illegal gold panners to engage in organised corruption at Sherwood Block in Kwekwe.

As a result, the gold that is mined there was not sold to the central bank.

"So entrenched is the corruption that whenever there are impending raids, the gold panners seem to be well-informed of the raids, their timing and how they will be carried out," says the study. "This clearly shows that the politicians in cohort with the police as well as the illegal miners are working to deprive the country of gold and attendant revenues which should contribute to the national fiscus."

The TI-Z study recommends the broadening of players involved in the granting of mining rights and mining deals to ensure transparency and accountability.

Recommendation

The study also recommended that all government officials including politicians and bureaucrats should be made to compulsorily declare their wealth upon taking office.

"Such a measure can be buttressed by a name and shame policy where those public officials who acquire wealth through the abuse of office are named and shamed in public without fear or favour," says the study.

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