A Dubai based company that facilitated a 'test' auction of Zimbabwe's diamonds last month has finally started paying out the money earned from the sale, days after Zimbabwe's government branded the test a failure.
Almost 400, 000 carats were sent to the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE) last month as part of a market-testing exercise. Of the estimated US$30 million realised from the sale, over US$4 million was earmarked for the Treasury.
But the ZANU PF government, which publically said it would prefer selling its gems on Eastern or Arab markets rather than in Europe, was left embarrassed after the DDE failed to hand over the money earned.
Last week Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said that the DDE "have failed the test" by not dispersing the cash within a certain period.
"Naturally the delay is crippling the mining companies that need the money to run operations. They (Dubai Diamond Exchange) have failed the test. Remember, when we went there we were testing the market. Why would we continue selling our diamonds in Dubai under such conditions?" he said.
Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa has since confirmed that all but one of the mining companies which were expecting payments had received them.
"I have been informed that only one company is yet to receive its payment, that is Marange Resources," Chidhakwa was quoted as saying by the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper.
Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Gye Nyame, Diamond Mining Company, Kusena, Anjin and Jinan sent their diamonds to the auction.
Two previous auctions, held in Belgium late last year and then again earlier this year, have seen the government bring in an estimated US$10 million. James Mupfumi, the Acting Director of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), said there have been no reforms to ensure that local communities benefit from the sales.
"As long as there is opacity in the supply chain, from mining up to marketing, and opacity in the shareholding, we will not see any funds trickling down to the communities," Mupfumi said.
He has previously called on the authorities to completely halt all mining activities and reexamine who the main beneficiaries of the diamond operations are.
"The people driving the marketing of the diamonds are people who have their own interests. As long as the people running the diamond fields are the biggest beneficiaries of the diamonds, we will not see revenue flowing to the communities who are wallowing in poverty," Mupfumi said.
The government has stated that it plans to have only one mining firm operational at the diamond fields in Chiadzwa, in an attempt to clamp down on corruption and revenue losses. It is widely believed however that the company likely to be handed control will be Mbada, not because it has the best checks and balances, but because it is linked to Robert Mugabe.