26 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Bennett Claims Diamond Cash Being Used to 'Clean' Zanu-PF Image

The MDC-T Treasurer General Roy Bennett has accused ZANU PF of using diamond money in a campaign to 'clean up' its image, as part of its pre-election strategy.

Bennett was speaking on SW Radio Africa's Diaspora Diaries series, where he welcomed a recent call for an investigation into the role of financial services giant Old Mutual in Zimbabwe's diamond trade.

He warned that the diamond sector remains under ZANU PF control and the profits that are not benefiting Zimbabweans are instead being used to help cleanse the party's reputation.

"I know for fact that there are credible PR (professionals) and lobbyists in the UK that have been approached through high level investment funds to represent the Mugabe regime in cleaning up ZANU PF's image ahead of elections, and cleaning up the wrongs they have done," Bennett said.

He added: "The human rights abuses, the thefts, the extrajudicial killings, the rapes, they are all forgotten about when the bottom line is profit and that is what is so disgusting"

He said that recent attempts to normalise, for example, the destructive land grab exercise, formed part of this diamond-funded strategy. He was referring to recent academic reports and publications that have attempted to paint the ZANU PF led land grab campaign as a success.

"It wouldn't take an investigative journalist too long to dig into that and find out where the funding had come from for these academics to do the research and trace how their bank balances have swelled... all to try to clean up the image of a discredited regime that has absolutely destroyed and obliterated the country," Bennett said.

The MDC-T official, who has never been sworn into government and remains in self-imposed exile in South Africa, also warned about the involvement of multinational companies that are working in Zimbabwe and are supporting the ZANU PF regime.

This includes Old Mutual, which is again facing criticism for its indirect involvement in the Marange based diamond mining firm Mbada. Earlier this month, UK MP Kate Hoey called for an investigation into Old Mutual's role, stating that Marange diamond companies were "suspected of directing millions of dollars to corrupt and violent interests associated with ZANU PF."

"Old Mutual needs to be investigated for a potential breach of sanctions." Hoey said, because the Mbada firm is a joint venture with the state run Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) that is on the European sanctions list. She said: "We cannot allow a British company to behave like this."

Old Mutual indirectly holds a 1.5% stake in Mbada Diamonds, after investing its clients' funds in a 6% stake in a scrap metal company, New Reclamation. That group then acquired 25% of Mbada, which is 50% run by the ZMDC. Old Mutual has stated that its involvement "post-dated any reported wrongdoing in the mining area. As a result, Old Mutual is most certainly not associated with activities which contravene the human rights of citizens."

A spokesman for Old Mutual has recently been quoted by the UK media as saying that: "Our holding in this investment is legal and we would never knowingly take action that did break any laws." He added that an Old Mutual investigation had found "no human rights abuses" since the company had been formed.

But the MDC-T's Bennett on Tuesday said these excuses are not good enough, and insisted that "they have a case to answer."

"These multinationals and corporates that are propping up ZANU PF with the involvement with them for profit in thoroughly discredited investments and investments that lack morality against laws of UK where guys are in bed and partnership with sanctioned entities is totally unacceptable," Bennett said.

He added: "My involvement in politics has been a journey that has revealed a lack of morality and decency when it comes to profits. And it stinks."

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