CIVIl society organisations have accused government of sleeping on duty while an estimated $15 billion in diamond revenue was being siphoned out of the country, with some calling for the mining of the gems to be temporarily stopped until effective measures are put in place to monitor the situation.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
In a belated birthday interview recently, President Robert Mugabe admitted that $15 billion from diamond revenue could not be accounted for, laying blame on the mining companies operating in Chiadzwa.
This comes after Mines and Mining Development minister Walter Chidakwa ordered all the companies operating in Chiadzwa to cease operations, while he sought to bring all mining in the area under one unit.
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association official, Mukasiri Sibanda said the government should look closely at the Auditor-General’s report, which unearthed a litany of malpractices in the diamond sector.
“The highest office in the land recently opined that the nation has been prejudiced of $15 billion in revenue from Marange diamond operations. This comes roughly six years after the start of formal diamond extraction in 2010. The $15 billion lost revenue accounts for 78% of the $19,184 billion gross revenue collections by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority during the same period (2010 to 2015),” he said.
“A litany of telling findings from Auditor-General include ZMDC’s [Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation] failure to put safeguards to verify the capital contributions from joint venture partners, agreed capital amounts were not honoured by government’s joint venture partner and the right to board representation of State interests in diamond entities was partially exercised.”
Sibanda said it was hard to tell whether some government officials mandated with oversight of Marange diamond operations were not the same players with shares in Marange diamond entities.
He said this might not be far-fetched, considering the length and breadth with which the “blind eye and deaf ear” has been given to leakages in Marange.
Sibanda said in future, the government should adopt strategies such as the one by Extractive Industry Transparency International in the management of the diamond sector so as to plug out leaks.
The Centre for Research and Development (CRD) said government should accept blame for the loss and act accordingly.
“It is secondary for government to blame foreign individuals in the alleged $15 billion diamond saga because all mining ventures in Marange were chaired by individuals directly appointed by the Minister of Mines and the President,” CRD director, James Mupfumi said.
“The assertion by Mugabe that Zimbabwe could have lost $15 billion must be taken seriously because he was directly involved in diamond operations. Diamond transactions took place right under the President’s nose. It is only prudent that the President leads the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission in tracking where the money went.”
Mupfumi said mining should be stopped until mechanisms to ensure transparency were put in place.
“The CRD has been calling for government to cease diamond operations and initiate diamond audits because mining practices were glaringly opaque. The government ignored the call and did absolutely nothing to stop diamond leakages,” he said.
“We believe more has been lost than what remains on the ground in Marange. It is only critical that the nation directs more of its energy to demand from the chief executive of this country where diamond money is.”
Tax Justice Network-Africa official, Cephas Makunike said government should study a report by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, which revealed that Africa was losing $50 billion annually in illicit financial flows.
“Africa is estimated to be losing $50 billion, according to the Mbeki report, and if you break down the $15 billion for five years, you would realise that Zimbabwe is contributing quite a large amount to illicit financial flow. The $15 billion is only for Chiadzwa diamonds and more could be channelled out from other sectors,” he said.
“The government has a lot to do and such revelations are an eye opener to see the gravity of illicit financial flows in Zimbabwe. They could be coming in many forms, but major one comes with agreements signed between the investors and the government.”