The Herald (Harare)

28 February 2014

Zimbabwe: Mineral Wealth Must Benefit Our People, Says President

Kinshasa — The 17th Comesa Heads of State and Government Summit took a bold stand on Wednesday to stop raw mineral exports and demand beneficiation from foreign investors in the region.President Mugabe participated at the 19-member economic forum, which ended in Kinshasa, DRC.

On his arrival at Harare International Airport on Wednesday night, President Mugabe said his fellow leaders from East and Southern Africa overwhelmingly supported the need to curb raw mineral exports.

"The issue of natural resources was discussed there quite at length. I am glad the countries now realise we need to control our resources and many were saying we must control our natural resources, we must ensure that we derive wealth from them and this wealth must benefit our people. That is very important so that we are not exploited by Western powers and imperialists," said President Mugabe.

"I expressed my sentiments there, that we need to re-organise the diamond industry so that we integrate production. We want to do in that sector what our neighbours have done, Botswana, Namibia and Angola, to have only one diamond company doing production, doing the cutting and processing and selling.

"You do not engage too many people in the diamond industry because you cannot control them, from a point of security and also from the part of your performance you are not able to do thorough work."

The President said alluvial and conglomerate diamond mining should be consolidated to ensure maximum benefit.

"Now we are going to choose just one or two companies to work alongside Government, to consolidate ourselves into one big company, which will do production and refinery and add value to the diamonds.

"It is not really necessary to take our diamonds outside and sell them. We need to conduct auctions here. I said it even from the advice and thinking of those in mining that we have to do it, that we are free to sell our diamonds anywhere in the world," said President Mugabe.

He added that Africa should expand its market to the East.

"We have held two sales in Belgium, the last which had about 950 000 carats and that gave us US$70 million. The previous one only gave us US$40 million. But we cannot sell to Antwerp alone, because sanctions have been hindering the sale of our diamonds," he said.

"There are other markets in Shanghai in China, India and Dubai. When all is said and done, it is better to sell your diamonds here at home, have auctions here. There are no costs incurred in terms of transporting both the product and the people outside to conduct sales," President Mugabe said.

The President said Comesa members also discussed promoting growth of agriculture, tourism and manufacturing. DRC's President Joseph Kabila took over the Comesa chairmanship, deputised by Ethiopia and with Uganda as the rapporteur.

Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Ministry permanent secretary George Charamba accompanied the President.

In his opening speech, outgoing Comesa chair, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni Africa should champion its own economic strategy and shun "old school" approaches that were inapplicable in the contemporary setting.

He said Africa should create a commercial agriculture-based industry, supported by infrastructure and a skilled workforce to service big markets.

Leaders called for consolidated peacemaking initiatives to quell conflicts in Africa, many of which were fuelled by external meddling.

Zambia's President Michael Sata added that developing the SMEs sector was the bedrock of African economies. He also said value addition was not an option but a must to bridge the development gap and curb exploitation by foreign investors.

Comesa secretary-general Mr Sindiso Ngwenya said Africa was well-placed to develop quickly given its vast natural resources, and called for increased integration.

DRC's President Joseph Kabila took over the Comesa chairmanship, deputised by Ethiopia and with Uganda as the rapporteur.

Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Ministry permanent secretary George Charamba accompanied the President.

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