CIVIC groups in Mutare have urged government to conduct an independent audit of Marange diamonds saying Zimbabwe so far had nothing to show for its gems which have largely benefited foreigners and a few well-connected individuals.
BY CLAYTON MASEKESA
The groups told a Universal Periodic Review Consultative meeting convened by the Ministry of Justice in Mutare yesterday that diamond leakages continued despite calls for transparency and accountability in the sector.
“The government should set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the operations of mining companies in Marange as well as the institutional capacity of State departments and ministries governing the diamond sector,” the groups said.
“We call on government to carry out extra-territorial investigations on how Marange diamonds have been smuggled and attempt to recover the stolen wealth.”
Jonathan Chindevere, who was representing the civic groups, said: “We do not even know how much was realised from diamonds. It has been kept a secret, why? The nation should be told how much was raised by the diamond sales.”
The Centre For Research and Development (CRD) said it was deeply concerned about the arbitrary decision taken by the government to direct mining companies in Chiadzwa to merge before instituting independent audits on all mining operations and addressing human rights abuses.
According to Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa, mining companies in the Chiadzwa diamond fields will merge under a two-phase programme that is expected to optimise earnings by cutting the long chain of players extracting the precious gems.
James Mupfumi, the acting director of CRD, said diamonds were a limited resource and the structure of ownership and control in Chiadzwa in its present and envisioned state demanded speedy and wise reform.
He said if the government was serious about transparency and accountability, an audit of the Marange diamonds was critical to provide direction to the proposed mergers.
The groups said the government before merging the mining companies should also address the secretive shareholding structures of beneficiaries and human rights violations that remained prevalent in Marange.
“There are exclusionary mining practices violating socio-economic and environmental rights of communities and unfulfilled commitments to displaced villagers at Arda Transau,” said Mupfumi.
Chindevere said the local labour force continued to be shunned by some of the diamond mining companies which are employing foreigners.
“You see a Chinese person being employed as a driver, our question is, do we not have drivers in Marange? We have too many Chinese people being employed in non-technical positions at the expense of the locals. Where is the beneficiation of the ZimAsset?” he queried.
A representative from Ministry of Mines said: “We hope that through this merger the government will be able to enforce accountability. We also hope the government will be able to manage the operations of the companies and reveal how much was being realised from the diamond sales.”
Justice ministry permanent secretary Virginia Mabhiza said government was committed to improving the human rights of all the people and had noted concerns raised by civic groups.