By Alex Bell
22 November 2012
There has been an angry reaction to comments by the Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, who has offered to pay off civil society organisations using diamond proceeds.
Mpofu was speaking at a review meeting of this month’s international diamond conference in Victoria Falls. He said that organisations who have been investigating the situation at the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields were being funded by ‘hostile governments’ and were against ‘national interests’
“Why should a Zimbabwean be funded and supported by a foreigner? If we brought our civil society on board on all issues and prepared a budget for them, I think they would be behaving differently. One who pays the piper calls the tune,” Mpofu said.
He added: “We can say all diamond producers should set aside a small levy of about 1 percent for the NGOs. As a matter of principle, to make progress we will consider some allocation from the diamond producers towards the civil society. The permanent secretary and his colleagues will work on that and I will persuade the diamond producers.”
Mpofu’s offer has been described as an obvious ‘bribe’, as civil society has been the most vocal critic of the situation at Chiadzwa, where there are ongoing reports of abuse, smuggling and other illicit activities. ZANU PF control of the area and of the diamond proceeds has also been widely exposed by civil society groups, who have demanded transparency and accountability at the diamond mines.
Phillip Pasirayi, an activist with the Centre for Community Development, slammed Mpofu’s comments saying: “We as civil society utterly reject this offer.”
“Mpofu should be educated enough to know that civil society cannot be forced into being part of the ZANU PF patronage system. We demand accountability and we demand transparency,” Pasirayi said.
He also criticised Mpofu for offering the diamond proceeds as a ‘bribe’ when the money is so desperately needed by other sectors of society. The Finance Ministry has insisted that money from the diamond mines is not being directed to the national coffers, despite the struggling economy. This means dilapidated infrastructure is still falling apart, hundreds of thousands of people don’t have access to clean water, and civil servants are earning a pittance, among a host of problems.
“The cash generated from diamonds should go into social services, and infrastructural development, and improving access to medical care and basic service. That is where the money should go,” Pasirayi said.