New Zimbabwe (London)

8 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Marange Probe - Why We Must Be Careful

THE unrelenting battering of diamond mines operating in Marange and the defilement of their integrity over their past five years of operation in the media will no doubt ricochet in future to the detriment of the country's economic interests.

Parliamentary and media oversight on key national institutions is an imperative of constitutional democracy. Exposing the rot in the economic sectors is plausible if the objective is to achieve a dead stop on such evil and charter a fresh start. It also works as deterrent to would be offenders and, indeed, is very preventative in nature.

However, tact and strategy must be employed to ensure that the country will not bazooka a mosquito and cause more damage to the building infested but let the pest fly away. It cannot be emphasized enough that when all is done, we need to ensure that the 800,000ha Marange diamond fields will still be able to attract investors and buyers post the hearings or the investigations.

Operating on a limited KPCS certification and also under European and USA sanctions, these diamond mining companies managed to sustain key government operations. There is no doubt that a number of transactions have to be done secretively, fearing that the USA's Office of the Financial Assets Control (OFAC) will scuttle everything.

The discovery of the actual abundant extent of Marange diamonds the 2004 shocked the world. As expected, trials and errors were committed as the government also fought for its reinstatement within the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS).

Notwithstanding, however, it must be noted by everyone that the contribution by these diamond companies to the Zimbabwean fiscus and the aggregate value of their social corporate responsibility dwarfs what all-mining companies contributed since the arrival Cecil john Rhodes to present date. From 2009 to 2011, salaries of our public service were bankrolled, to a significant extent, by the diamond mining companies operating in Marange.

Zimplats' revenue receipts, which had already started operations seven years earlier than the Marange diamond mines, never benefitted our local banking system for a long time as funds were holed up in the offshore escrow accounts. The same applies to Dawn Mining, Vumba Chikwe, and many other western owned mining operations. Never did we see Parliament and media being critical and vociferous as they have been on Marange. Oversight must be conducted far and wide and must not be seen to be selective.

Despite being the second biggest known platinum deposit-holder, Zimbabweans do not know how much platinum is exported and its contribution to the fiscus. What is of public record, however, is that at some point in time Zimplats took ZIMRA to court contesting a tax assessment.

Elsewhere, Murowa Diamond's mining company sits on a very potent Kimberlitic belt whose gems values are several times more than the Marange low-grade diamonds. This company was never affected by KPCS suspension and remains aloof as if it was outside Zimbabwe. Parliament and media is yet to breathe a word about this company that is quietly busy exploiting Zimbabwe's finest diamonds. It is surprising why this company does not attract Parliamentary and media oversight!

Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), a civic society organization funded by the America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), authored two documents critical of President Robert Mugabe's control of the Marange diamond operation. PAC's efforts heavily militated against Zimbabwe's strenuous attempts to be readmitted in the KPCS. These documents contained deadly vitriol and venom against President Mugabe, Government Ministers and the security chiefs. It was an uphill struggle to successfully controvert these allegations and cause the full readmission of Zimbabwe in the KPCS family. Consequently, however, the truth prevailed over the PAC report.

In a no holds barred discussion with USA's former Secretary of African Affairs, Susan Page in Jerusalem in 2011, Supa Mandiwanzira former President of the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) said, "Madam Secretary, the intrusion of your government in the civic society and its influence in the authorship of reports which are against President Mugabe's control in Marange diamond mining fields is sickening. These half truths and lies, which are being repeatedly circulated million times around the world makes me have no doubt that one day our own people will start to believe them."

Interesting, however, is that some Zanu PF politicians are, regrettably now parroting some of the allegations made by PAC and dismissed by the KPCS. Although Zimbabwe regained its KPCS status, trading of diamonds is still largely caged by the Americans who successfully managed to scare away prominent diamond buyers such as Alrosa from making direct purchases. There is no doubt that diamonds must contribute to the recovery of our economy. But I am not quite sure now whether the treatment of diamond companies by politicians will leave the sector with a reasonable reputational standing to allow it to be able attract investors and customers.

To date, Zimbabwe still waits for tangible incriminating evidence pointing to looting of diamonds by the current or past diamond directors and their executives. What we see and hear is this appetite and affinity to make headline political statements which are nothing but heresy all in the name of eradicating corruption. The Masimirembwa case must convincingly inform all of us that there are elements bent to misinform the highest office in the land on matters relating to diamond mining.

Diamonds are mined mainly to produce jewelry - products that represent love, passion, affection and romance. Their extraction must court little, if any, controversy.

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