Finance minister Tendai Biti has hinted the government was crafting new laws to curb pilferage of proceeds from the country’s Chiadzwa diamond fields.
Addressing Kwekwe residents during a 2012 Budget consultative meeting last Friday, Biti said the government could not account for all diamond sales from Chiadzwa, adding the country could be losing billions through theft of the precious mineral.
“Some people are stealing. The money we are getting from diamonds and the carats which are being extracted there is not in agreement. I won’t name the people, but the truth is people are stealing,” said Biti.
Biti said the envisaged Diamond Act would be enforced by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority ( Zimra), which would also be responsible for valuing and monitoring the sale of the gems to plug the alleged current loopholes.
“We have a problem in particular with diamonds, if you look at the carats being mined from Chiadzwa and those being declared, they are not consistent.
Never mind what is coming into the fiscus. We are being told that diamonds are being sold at $60 per carat . . . the cheapest industrial diamonds sell at $200, while the cheapest goes for $1 300. Looking at these figures, the nation could have got $4 billion in 2010 alone, but we got only $154 million and in 2011 we are looking to get $167 million. What we need is a law to stop this theft,” Biti said.
Biti said if the diamond revenue is managed properly it could be a game changer and allow the Zimbabwean economy to rebound.
The minister also bemoaned the export of raw material without any value addition, saying there was need for processing plants to be set-up and become champions of growth for the ailing Zimbabwean economy.
He said there was need to stop the exports of raw chrome, unprocessed platinum, tobacco and cotton, and instead encourage foreign direct investment on processing plants.
“Why can’t we have a diamond polishing plant in Chiadzwa or set up a tomato processing plant in Mutoko as our champion growers? This thing of exporting without adding value is killing us,” said Biti.