SW Radio Africa (London)

30 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Fresh Diamond Looting Spree in Marange

Observers have reported a fresh diamond looting spree, with security and army chiefs said to be working hand in glove with senior mining companies' staff in the scam.

Reports said the swindle is being spurred on by panic among mining staff members who are not sure of their fate following a government announcement that it will streamline diamond mining in Marange.

Mines Minister Walter Chidakwa recently announced plans to merge diamond mining companies as a way to minimize corruption, but this seems to have led to a last minute rush with people taking advantage of loopholes in the system to line their pockets ahead of the planned exercise.

Currently there are seven companies operating in Chiadwza including Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company and Mbada Diamonds. Apart from the Marange Resources, these companies operate as joint ventures with government under the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.

Since diamond mining started in the area there have been complaints of looting and reports that most of the diamonds were being sold on the black market with little revenue going into government coffers. This time around there is reportedly an increase in illegal diamond selling with local high profile figures said to be behind it.

The Executive Director of the Center for Natural Resource Governance, Farai Muguwu, told SW Radio Africa that since Chidakwa's announcement 'some companies have taken to mining 24/7.'

Muguwu said it was a 'mistake' for the government to publicly announce its plans to streamline mining activities at Chiadzwa. He said: 'The mining companies have been monitoring themselves from the beginning and so by announcing that their permits will be terminated you are basically telling them to do as they please before those changes.' He added: 'The minister has got the power to just terminate contracts within a short notice and that's what he should have done to avoid this looting spree.'

Muguwu said he did not have 'much confidence' that the planned changes would improve the situation at Chiazdwa. He said the best way forward would have been to look into the governance of the entire mining sector and revise the policies and laws attending to the extraction of raw minerals in the country.

He said: 'Merely forming one large company may just change the hands that are stealing and not the stealing itself.'

There are reports that say only one company will be left mining diamonds in Marange, Mbada diamonds, which is allegedly strongly linked to the Mugabe family.

Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa is Mugabe's nephew and a confident of Grace Mugabe.

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