HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsDiamonds scam: People now see connections

Diamonds scam: People now see connections

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In my previous journalistic life as a columnist at The Herald, I was given a dressing-down by the editor-in-chief.

This was after I had merely pointed out the findings of the bipartisan Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy that Mbada Mining Company intended to secretly auction 300 000 carats of diamonds without the knowledge and authorisation of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) but that several Mbada directors were also ZMDC directors, giving rise to suspicion of collusion — a classic case of conflict of interest.

Some political bigwigs must have exerted pressure on the editor-in-chief because something must have happened for him, a thoroughly decent fellow, to come down on me like that.

That was in February this year.

In March, President Robert Mugabe in “a spirited defence of (Mbada and Canadile Miners’) questionable contracts with government”, said the tenders were given in a transparent manner, contrary to the views of the portfolio committee and senior government officials who were querying the unprocedural allocation of contracts without going to tender.

“We had a list of companies applying. Finally two of them , Mbada and Canadile, were chosen. They were recommended and I was shown the papers and their proposals. The (Mines) ministry then decided that for now they were preferable to the rest. We said fine.

There are the ones who are there for now,” Mugabe said.

This was barely a week after Mbada had refused the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe full sight of its full agreement and only offered to show the particular section giving it independent marketing rights.

Parliamentary committees have a duty to inform Parliament, which represents the interests of the people.

South African national Abby Chikane was then appointed monitor to see to it that trading in Chiadzwa diamonds was in compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme which regulates the sale of the gems worldwide to guard against them being sold to raise funds to fuel conflict, the so-called “blood diamonds”.

In June, researcher and human rights activist Farai Maguwu was arrested and charged with endangering Zimbabwe’s economic interests by highlighting alleged abuses and rampant smuggling at the Chiadzwa diamond fields and handing over the documents with his findings to Chikane.

In Zimbabwe, crisis never seems far away.

Last week six ZMDC and Canadile Miners executives were rounded up on allegations of fraudulently acquiring the tender to get a mining concession and fleecing the country of diamonds worth – wait a minute — $100 million through smuggling.

Things are coming to a head.

The arrested executives’ lawyers dared Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu to “come clean” on the matter because, they claimed, he knew what was going on all along.

Yes, things are certainly coming to a head. It emerged that Canadile Miners deputy chairperson Lovemore Kurotwi told Mugabe in the presence of the minister that Mpofu had demanded bribes from the firm and that he is the one who recommended to Mugabe that ZMDC enter into a partnership with Canadile.
That said, there could be more twists and turns coming as the plot thickens.

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The rot can be traced back to the “Willowgate Scandal” when a great opportunity for zero tolerance to corruption was lost with the pardoning of political heavyweights implicated in the scam.

The Willowgate scandal of 1987 involved the allocation of new motor vehicles to government officials, especially ministers, by Willowvale Motors in Harare.

Five senior government ministers were forced to resign for using their privileged position to buy new cars from Willowvale at a fixed low price without paying sales tax and subsequently reselling them at huge profit.

The “Sandura Commission” was set up and the ministers were grilled in public hearings, but nothing came out of it because they were immediately given presidential pardons, starting with Transport minister Frederick Shava who was jailed for perjury but was whisked out of prison the next day.

Justice Wilson Sandura rightly observed the farcical situation and announced that the courts would no longer waste time, effort and funds in continuing with those “show trials” to deceive people that something was being done when absolutely nothing was being done as the culprits would immediately be pardoned.

For saying that, he became a marked man and did not rise to Chief Justice, a position he deserved because of his wealth of experience and unquestionable integrity.

Those who exerted pressure had a vested interest in Shava not being convicted and imprisoned because they would be next in line to face the music.

The biggest casualty of Willowgate was then Chronicle editor Geoff Nyarota for exposing the scam, for doing the right thing. Now corruption has taken root.

From then, the ruling class became gripped with a high sense of entitlement. Civil and parastatal jobs and tenders, business opportunities and even vegetable market stalls began to be issued on partisan grounds, not merit or acumen.

Those without party membership cards were excluded; people had to come through “the Party” (gwara remusangano) whereas the Constitution says there should be freedom of association.

The astute Phillip Chiyangwa saw through the system early; that’s why he said: “If you want to be rich in this country, join Zanu PF.” No wonder he is one of the wealthiest people in Zimbabwe today.

As with political violence, it’s the same with corruption; it’s in their vested interest to place their allies in strategic positions at all economic power points to perpetuate self-enrichment.

They have a personal stake or expectation of personal gain that underlies their strong commitment to maintain or influence an action or event.

They have a special interest in protecting or promoting that which is to their own personal advantage; they seek to maintain or control an existing system or activity from which they derive private benefit.

This is corruption writ large and diversified; deception after deception. People see shadowy but powerful figures behind all this.

This is what has led to the now questionable tenders at Chiadzwa. Let’s not make up stories when we are exposed. Government business or governance does not have anything to do with being an “ever obedient son”, as Mpofu calls himself before Mugabe. It’s there for serving people, not your boss. Modern times call for leaders, not rulers.

We need to create non-political platforms where all can participate and contribute freely to Project Zimbabwe without fear or favour.

Good corporate governance is everything that vested interests in politics is not; the two don’t mix. Transparency and sustained development are two sides of the same coin.

Non-transparency leads to loss and regression – as the ZMDC-Canadile saga is beginning to show.

We all make personal and professional mistakes, but let’s listen to that advice we give others because it is also applicable to us – like blaming the West for conditional aid and unfair trade rules which result in the net outflow of wealth from Africa when some among us have privatised those very resources and deprived fellow Zimbabweans of a decent living, and railing at America for rendition and torture of Al-Qaeda suspects when abduction and torture happens here in Zimbabwe as the Supreme Court found in the case of human rights worker Jestina Mukoko.

All said, the initial hostility towards Kimberley Process monitor Chikane to the extent that someone breached into his confidential documents can now be understood.

The demonisation, arrest, prosecution and long stretch in remand prison of human rights activist Maguwu can now be explained.

People can now understand the rantings against the West for demanding transparency in diamond trading to safeguard against blood diamonds which fuelled unimaginable conflict in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to mention three countries.

They now see the connection between the hostility against the Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Energy and it being barred from inspecting Canadile operations at Chiadzwa.

Most of all – and the betrayal of betrayals – ordinary Zimbabweans now make the connection between this plunder and their continuing poverty and hardships in this land of plenty.

ctutani@newsday.co.zw

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