Zimbabwe: Tempers Flare in Mutare Over Diamond Looting

Mutare — Tempers flared at a mines and mineral policy workshop held in Mutare last week when participants expressed anger at the alleged looting of diamonds in Chiadzwa.

Participants at the workshop who included Zanu PF youth groups and war veterans said the former ruling party would lose elections unless President Robert Mugabe intervened to stop the looting.

Small-scale miners and traditional leaders urged the people in Manicaland to be vocal and claim the diamonds as they were supposed to be the bona fide beneficiaries of the resources.

Manicaland governor Chris Mushowe warned people were getting impatient over the diamond revenue issue.

"The people from Manicaland have been so patient and please don't take that patience for granted. We cannot continue watching things going on like this. Let the Minister of Mines be warned," he said.

War veterans said they wanted a 20% stake in the diamond mining noting there hasn't been an equitable distribution of wealth in the country since 1980.

Mutare district war veterans' development secretary, John Bushu said although Manicaland had plenty of mineral resources, former freedom fighters in the province were paupers.

"We are not happy at all with what is happening in Chiadzwa. We are still living in abject poverty yet only a few are benefitting from the diamonds," he said.

Bushu said war veterans did not have decent accommodation or land, while some of the big- wigs used their muscle to loot the diamonds.

He questioned where funds generated from the mining of diamonds from Chiadzwa were being channelled to.

"These are some of the issues that will affect the party in the forthcoming election because many people have a perception that Zanu PF is linked to the Chiadzwa diamonds," said Bushu.

Vocal Zanu PF youth member, Sheila Mutsenhu, from Vadiki Tavekupfuma Youth Empowerment group said: "It is sad that we people from Manicaland are failing to have access to the diamond fields to do business. There is serious favouritism and nepotism going on there. Many people who are outside Manicaland are employed here. Many companies outside Mutare are winning tenders. We need to be vocal about this." Other participants said they were also not happy with the dominance of Chinese companies in Chiadzwa.

"The Chinese are doing nothing in terms of employing the locals. They are bringing their personnel from China while we have equally qualified people here. This is something that should be looked at," said Joseph Mukahanana from Manicaland Small Scale Miners Development Trust.

Responding to some of the concerns, the director of finance and administration in the Mines and Mining Development ministry Olivia Mwamlowe said she would take up the complaints with Minister Obert Mpofu.

"We can see that people are concerned very much. It's very clear people want to be empowered," she said. "I think we will have another meeting in Harare and we will consolidate these views and they will be made available to anyone. We are happy that people are saying [out] things that affect them."

Zanu PF National Secretary for Administration, Didymus Mutasa recently confirmed to journalists that big names in the party have been implicated in serious illegal diamond dealing, prejudicing the country of millions of dollars.

He said President Mugabe was aware of the illegal deals which were now under investigation.

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