26 February 2016

Zimbabwe: 'No Going Back On Chiadzwa'

Photo: Denford Magora
Marange Diamond Fields

Cabinet has approved the takeover of Chiadzwa diamond fields to be run under the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company after the companies there failed to renew their mining permits.

Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa on Wednesday said there was no going back on shutting down the companies that had been mining in Chiadzwa.

He made the remarks during a Press conference in Harare yesterday after touring Chiadzwa fields earlier in the day where they established that the situation at the fields was not as dire as had been reported in the media.

Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Christopher Mushohwe also attended the Press conference.

"We presented a full report to Cabinet yesterday and we had a full discussion of the matters," he said. "We outlined to Cabinet the steps that now need to be taken going forward insofar as ensuring that the ZCDC is actually activated in the fullest sense of the word."

He said there was nothing wrong with not renewing the licences of diamond mining companies since they had not applied for renewal.

Minister Chidhakwa said the reluctance by the companies to embrace and be part of the ZCDC left Government with no choice but to part ways with them.

He insisted that Government's doors were completely shut on the miners even if they made a U-turn and sought to be part of the consolidated company.

"I told Cabinet that I had been asked that question (whether the door was completely shut on the companies) and I told Cabinet that I had said no and Cabinet said 'Yes you are right in saying no, there is no door open.

"Now the language is ZCDC-100 percent owned on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe by the Government of Zimbabwe," said Minister Chidhakwa.

He said while Government signed some Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAs) with other countries, this did not substitute legal requirements in Zimbabwe such as applying for mining permits.

Minister Chidhakwa said before announcing the decision to stop operations, he engaged the Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Huang Ping to acquaint him with the status of diamond mining.

Some Chinese investors had interests in Jinan and Anjin investments

"The ambassador said to me 'Minister, law is law. He repeated it not once, not twice but several times and towards the end of the meeting, he said to me 'law is law'. The law says you must have a licence and so must you have a licence.

"When he said law is law, I understood him to say this sovereign country called Zimbabwe has laws and it has the constitutional responsibility and obligation to ensure that the laws are abided by," said Minister Chidhakwa.

Media reports have suggested that the ousted diamond companies would sue Government for not renewing their licences.

But Minister Chidhakwa said everything was done above board.

"Everybody has a democratic right even foreigners to approach the bench. If you are a miner whose rights have been violated, you take your title to the courts. And I am not so sure what they will take to the courts. An expired mining licence, an expired special grant? I am not sure.

"I am not worried because I have consulted sufficiently within our legal framework about what we must do or what we cannot do. What we cannot do is to expropriate people's properties, no we can't do that. That we will be sued for and they will win in court. But the act of not extending their licence I think that they will have a problem," he said.

Minister Chidhakwa said during the tour to Chiadzwa they received reports from police that there been isolated incidents of illegal miners attempting to gain access into the mining areas.

"We got reports from the commander responsible for the police force there. He told us about two incidents of people who had tried to come into the area and they were immediately arrested by the police. When we got there the police were holding the four people who had tried to go into the area," he said.

Minister Chidhakwa said even before the companies were stopped from operating, incidents of illegal miners attempting to gain access were recorded.

He said Government was concerned that Chiadzwa villagers had not benefited from the mining activities in their area after the bungling of the Community Share Ownership Trust.

"We also realised that the message that comes out of Chiadzwa is that the President showed us a cheque for $1,5 million (but where is it?). You know that matter was extensively discussed in the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Indigenisation," he said.

Minister Chidhakwa said they would conduct a forensic audit to establish what was happening during the time that the companies were mining.

Minister Mushohwe said there was nothing wrong with the decision taken by Government adding that it was in the national interest.

He implored the media to avoid politicising the decision by Government.

"These are regulatory issues. These are not political issues. So we don't expect people to start bringing all sorts of ugly politics into a matter of this nature which is a purely business and regulatory matter," said Minister Mushowe.

"This is a matter that was agreed upon in Cabinet yesterday. This is a Government position. So my plea is that we report as honestly and as accurately as has been said here so that let our people, let the international community judge Government's action on the basis of the information given to you."

He said Government did not segregate media houses whether public or private but wanted all of them to have access to public information.

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