Alex Bell was joined by the MDC-T Treasurer General Roy Bennett who warned that diamond money is being used by ZANU PF to pay for its international reputation to be ‘cleansed’. Bennett made these claims while commenting on the involvement on international financial services group Old Mutual in Zimbabwe’s diamond sector.
AB: Hello Zimbabwe and welcome to Diaspora Diaries on SW Radio Africa, your independent voice. I’m Alex Bell and on tonight’s show I’m joined by the MDC-T Treasurer General Roy Bennett to shine a spotlight on the involvement of financial services giant Old Mutual in Zimbabwe’s diamond trade. Now this involvement that Old Mutual has insisted is above board could face international investigation following a call by a UK MP. Kate Hoey who chairs the all parliamentary group on Zimbabwe has said Old Mutual needs to be investigated for a potential breach of sanctions. She explained that Old Mutual is a stakeholder in one of the shareholders in the Marange-based Mbada Diamonds and was therefore effectively in a joint venture with the sanctioned state mining company, the ZMDC and she said they cannot allow a British company to behave like this. Well, I’m joined now by Roy Bennett to discuss this issue as well as the involvement of other multi-national firms in what they say is propping up the ZANU PF regime. Roy thank you so much for joining us once again; first of all, we’ve seen this call by MP Kate Hoey – what do you make of it? What is your reaction to this?
RB: I think it’s an excellent call Alex and it’s long overdue. The multi-nationals and corporates that are propping up ZANU PF, with the involvement with them for profit have been thoroughly, thoroughly discredited investments and investments that lack morality, against the laws of the United Kingdom where these guys are in bed and partnership with sanctioned entities is totally unacceptable. And I think half the shareholders don’t even know of the involvement of these corporates in the manner in which they are doing it based against the human rights abuses that were carried out on the diamonds.
AB: We know for example that Old Mutual has argued again and again that their involvement has been above board, it was an engagement that they said did not infringe on any rules that they knew of – are you satisfied with their arguments?
RB: Definitely not, absolutely not. They certainly have a case to answer and how they could have sat back and got involved in an investment that was thoroughly discredited with a sanctioned entity is just totally unacceptable.
AB: In your mind then Roy, what would you expect them to be answering questions on? It’s not just what they say is a part involvement in one of the mines but it seems that they have a lot more questions to answer.
RB: Absolutely. The investment was made through their South African entity, a mixer, and initially they tried to deny the fact that they knew of this investment, that the investment had been in a company that they had invested in before, which was New Reclamation, and that their investment in New Reclamation had made before the Marange diamonds. Yet we have minutes, absolute minutes proving the fact that their representative from the mixer actually sat in on the meeting where Marange Diamonds was brought up for New Reclamation to invest into and kept silent about it and in fact endorsed it. And therein lies the issue Alex that a thoroughly, thoroughly discredited entity that is involved with a sanctioned entity and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, a British listed company, is involved with, it’s just totally unacceptable.
AB: Now Roy this has come at a time when the sanctions have been reviewed by the European Union and we’ve seen that there has been a certain amount of easing of those measures in what the EU says is a reward for progress in government. As an aside, what do you make of this move?
RB: Well I think the result of that move is already showing that it’s totally ineffective and absolutely a non-entity. The violence is escalating in Zimbabwe, the murder of a young 12 year old three nights ago burnt to death by ZANU PF activists shows that it’s had absolutely no impact and that there is no progress around the human rights abuses, around the abuse of the state machinery, the abuse of militias, the investigation by the police, the arrest of the people perpetrating, committing these crimes. It’s driven by senior ZANU PF politicians and all this is doing is endorsing those murders and that brutality. It’s totally sickening and my whole involvement in politics, starting off on the human rights side has been a journey that’s revealed to me the thorough, thorough lack of morality, the lack of decency in big business when it comes to profit. Profits above anything and it stinks Alex, it absolutely stinks.
AB: We are particularly worried about the fact that diamond money is being used, particularly if we want to look at the Old Mutual situation, they’re involved in one way or the other in the diamond sector and there’s so much concern about how diamond money is being used – not only to prop up the Mugabe regime but also to try and I guess clean their image ahead of elections. Do you think that the EU then has, it almost seems that they are trying to normalize the situation as part of this?
RB: The biggest driver in the whole removal of the EU sanctions was Belgium and all we have to do is look at Belgium’s involvement in the diamond trade and you can see where their agenda and where their motive comes from. It’s nothing about the transparency, the accountability, the use of diamonds to rebuild Zimbabwe to benefit the lives of the majority of the people and in the development and reconstruction that’s needed in Zimbabwe. It’s about the bottom line and their profits is what all they worry about. It’s absolutely, you are 100% right, I was recently in the UK and we see it here in South Africa where leading newspapers, leading journalists who before have been severe critics of the Mugabe regime are now completely changing their tune and saying you know Mugabe not so bad, the ZANU PF is not so bad, the land reform is a success etc etc. And you can see that behind it is the diamond money. I know for a fact that very, very credible public relations and lobbyists within the UK have been approached through very, very high level investment funds to represent the Mugabe regime in cleaning up their image towards the elections and cleaning up all the wrongs that they have done, the human rights abuses, the thefts, the extrajudicial killings, the rapes – it’s forgotten about when the bottom line is profit and money and that’s what’s so disgusting Alex.
AB: We have seen at the, when you talk about these attempts what seems to be a very blatant attempt to try and normalize, for one, the land reform – we’ve seen recent academic articles written trying to paint the land reform as a success – is this all part of this? Is this a strategy?
RB: Absolutely – it wouldn’t take an investigative journalist too long to dig into that and find out where the funding has come from for those academics to do the research and how their bank balances have swelled in whatever manner it is to try and clean up the image of a thoroughly discredited regime that has absolutely destroyed and completely obliterated a country.
AB: And continues to.
RB: Continues to. Continues to on a daily basis. We see nothing changing, we see violence ratcheting up, we see more murders and basically with total impunity. You have these western entities for profit endorsing this behaviour through association and investment, giving them the credibility and the legitimacy that they are seeking in order to be able to enhance their bottom line at the expense of the Zimbabwean people and the country as a whole.
AB: Roy, you are talking about entities – it’s not just Old Mutual then that is implicated in this? This has far reaching implications for a bunch of international groups?
RB: Absolutely. Have a look at all the recent 51% indigenization, look at PTC Cement, look at Old Mutual again in their investment. Where’s the transparency? Who are the entities involved? How much money is involved? How much money has changed hands and how much has gone to buy ZANU PF functionaries? Who are the partners? Have they come forward with the money to purchase these shares in the 51% indigenization schemes? It’s a total scam and they’ve fallen into it to protect their interests for profit. They have enriched and enhanced the regime further to carry out repression, suppression and just the same old, same old on the Zimbabwean people.
AB: At this point Roy, why is it so important that this needs to be exposed? We’ve seen this call from Kate Hoey for there to be an investigation into Old Mutual but it seems that this needs to be much bigger and quite important, it needs to be quite urgent.
RB: Oh absolutely. You see Alex, the very, very sad thing is the state of the world economics and Zimbabwe’s resources. Zimbabwe’s extractive sector – platinum, gold, diamonds, chrome, nickel – massive, massive opportunities for the extractive sector and for a lot of these mining entities to get involved in to enhance their bottom lines and their profits and they don’t care who they get into bed with. They don’t care how thoroughly discredited the people are they deal with as long as there’s a bottom line profit and they need to be exposed, it needs to be exposed. The share holders are the ones completely held a cloth over their eyes, they can’t see what these corporates are doing on the basis of their shareholding in enhancing and propping up totalitarian regimes.
AB: If this allowed to carry on in Zimbabwe Roy, what do you think are going to be the implications for Zimbabweans?
RB: Well the Zimbabweans will remain in abject poverty and if you look across the whole of Africa you have all these multi-nationals involved with regimes, complicit with the regimes, enriching those regimes at the expense of the people in the countries and Africa remains in absolute poverty. Zimbabwe is a total basket case at the moment. You need to speak to ordinary Zimbabweans on the street in Zimbabwe – life for them is tough. There’s absolutely no money, there’s no money in the system, it’s no better now than it was in 2008, it’s deteriorated. It got really good when the government of national unity was formed and it’s gone right back again to where the day-to-day life of an average Zimbabwean is a grind and that is the same in most, in many African countries where the regimes in control are totally unaccountable to the people, are complicit with international business in raping and plundering the resources of those countries into the back pockets of individuals and corporates at the expense of the people.
AB: So we’re talking about the Zimbabwe situation seems to be a bit of an example, a microcosm about what is happening across the world. How do we get people to start taking notice and caring when you’re up against the multi-nationals who seem to rule the world?
RB: By exposing them like the Honourable Kate Hoey is doing. It’s absolutely admirable and it’s the right thing to do as politicians. A politician’s duty is to serve, is to serve the people and to serve those that have elected them of the best interests of the country and the communities that they represent and what Honourable Hoey is doing is absolutely honourable for her constituency, for the British government, for the country of Britain in exposing investments that are made with the totalitarian regimes at the expense of those people and against the laws of the United Kingdom.
AB: Well that was the MDC-T’s Treasurer General Roy Bennett joining me from South Africa there. If you have any comments or queries about this investigation that the MP Kate Hoey has been calling for, please email me on [email protected]. You can also have your say on what you make of the situation by joining our Callback series – send us your number on (+263) 0772643871 and we’ll call you back for your views and opinions. For now though, we’ve come to the end of Diaspora Diaries but join me Alex Bell at the same time next week.