Illegal trade in diamonds is rife in Mutare and in Manica town in Mozambique amid reports that smuggling of the gems was still rampant from the controversial Chiadzwa and Charasika fields.
NewsDay was in the eastern border town last weekend and spoke to illegal diamond dealers who alleged soldiers and employees of one of the companies mining diamonds in Chiadzwa were working hand in glove to smuggle the diamonds.
They said the smuggled diamonds found their way into Manica town, about 15 kilometres from the Forbes Border Post in Mutare where wealthy foreign buyers have set up bases.
Reports are that the Mozambican government and 30 licenced diamond mining companies were mulling joining the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in order to regulate trade of diamonds.
Up to 50 diamond buyers have set up bases in Manica and Chimoio. The buyers are from Belgium, Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Guinea and Nigeria.
“Diamonds are being smuggled by soldiers and sold in Mozambique on a daily basis,” said one illegal dealer from Mutare.
But police said they were not aware of cases in which soldiers manning the diamond fields were found smuggling diamonds from Chiadzwa.
They said they had arrested ordinary people found in possession of the gems.
Detective Assistant Inspector, Godfrey Mubayiwa, a spokesperson for the border control and minerals unit said: “We have not arrested any soldiers but ordinary people trying to make a living through selling diamonds.
“But should anyone come across such cases they should call our toll free number 008004813 and give us information. Officers from the minerals unit will be manning that line. This will help us in arresting people sabotaging the country’s economy,” he said.
The police spokesperson did not give statistics of arrests saying such figures were not yet readily available.
Mubayiwa said the police had also not handled any case in which people were arrested for attempting to smuggle diamonds across the border into Mozambique.
“We have only arrested people trying to smuggle second hand clothes, bales, skin-lightening creams, beer and drugs such as mbanje,” he said.
But dealers who spoke to NewsDay said there were still several daring foreign buyers with close connections to security agents that were still operating in Mutare.
The majority of the foreign buyers fled to Mozambique from across the border in Mutare after a police operation to rid the eastern border city of illegal diamond traders intensified.
Obede Matine, Mozambique’s deputy national Natural Resources and Mines director told Radio Mozambique, a state controlled radio station, that Mozambique wanted to prevent entry of diamonds mined in conflict zones.
The neighbouring country has licenced 30 companies to prospect for diamonds but most diamonds sold in the country come from Chiadzwa and Charasika diamond fields, Matine told the state broadcaster.
Dealers in Mutare said they were crossing into Mozambique daily with diamonds. Most of the buyers stay at seedy lodges in Manica and Chimoio.
They said the illegal trade in diamonds was on the rise despite tight security at the diamond fields.
“For you to be able to get the diamonds you have to be connected to soldiers at the fields or workers of the companies mining there,” said another dealer.
The soldiers and workers from companies mining at Chiadzwa have formed syndicates with daring dealers to smuggle diamonds.