SW Radio Africa (London)

22 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Mbada Secures More Harare Airport Space

Marange based diamond mining outfit, Mbada diamonds, has managed to secure more operating space at Harare International Airport, after building offices for the Civil Aviation Authority.

Mbada's chairman, Robert Mhlanga, on Thursday officially handed over the premises built on the airport grounds and costing more than US$500,000. The buildings are reportedly going to be used as a training facility.

Transport Minister Goche announced at the handover that the buildings were built in return for a piece of land at the airport, which Mbada has requested to extend their operations there.

"My ministry had no reservations with granting Mbada Diamonds space at Harare International Airport to carry out its commercial activities," said Minister Goche.

Mbada's Mhlanga said the initiative was meant to ensure that diamonds that passed through the airport were well protected.

Mbada, whose activities remain under a cloud of suspicion, already has a diamond processing facility at the airport, where the bulk of their transactions are made. This includes trading with unknown entities that have reportedly been trading with Mbada, despite a ban that was only lifted last year.

Concern has been raised that this extra space at the airport will further help keep Mbada's activities secret, because it allows diamond buyers from across the world direct access to diamonds within a government protected space.

Political analyst Clifford Mashiri told SW Radio Africa on Friday that the secretive nature of Mbada's diamond trading is cause for concern. He warned that, with elections around the corner, there is need for proper diamond legislation.

"We are concerned that they are trying to conceal their operations and to what end we don't know yet. But we are worried because of concerns that diamond money is being used illicitly," Mashiri warned.

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