By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
18 March 2014
Questions are being asked about the State’s calls for the mining operations at the Chiadzwa alluvial fields to be shut down, with plans by the government to only allow a single mining firm to continue there.
The shutdown calls have emanated from government officials and have also been carried within state media publications, including the Sunday Mail. The newspaper this weekend reported that Zimbabweans “across various socio-economic strata are urging the Government to take decisive action to restore accountability in Chiadzwa, including shutting down the diamond fields, while measures are taken to maximise the nation’s benefit from the precious mineral.”
The government, through Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa, has also threatened to shut down all operations at the diamonds fields, where millions of dollars in ‘missing’ diamond revenue remains unaccounted for. He said last week that the government was losing diamond revenue through “cartels,” and said shutting down all mining at the alluvial fields was better than this continued revenue loss.
Chidhakwa last year also dissolved the management boards of the parastatal Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe and Marange Resources. Sources quoted by the NewsDay newspaper said the dissolution of the boards was linked to the alleged disappearance of 1.3 million carats of diamonds in 2010, following the breakdown of Canadile Miners, a joint venture diamond mining firm involving the ZMDC.
But many people remain skeptical about the true motive for the apparent clampdown on the diamond miners, which the government licensed and went into partnerships with six years ago. Illicit sales, lack of accountability, suspected corruption and other issues have repeatedly been raised by civil society groups, but their concerns have always fallen on deaf ears.
Some observers have now questioned if the ‘clampdown’ plans are just “window dressing”, to pave the way for the planned takeover of the mining concessions by one firm.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa this month announced plans to reduce the number of diamond mining companies operating in the Marange diamond fields to just one. Although the government has not yet announced how it will determine who gets to control the concessions, it appears likely that the firm that will be given control is one linked to Robert Mugabe, Mbada.
Mbada has strong links to Mugabe through family ally and former pilot Robert Mhlanga, who is the Mbada chairperson. Mhlanga has also recently been quoted in the media as saying his company has remitted millions of dollars to the fiscus since it started operations, and even helped financially during the civil servants wage crisis. The company also made one of the largest cash donations at the wedding of Mugabe’s only daughter to Simba Chikore earlier this month, giving the couple $100,000.
Alouis Munyaradzi Chaumba from the Anti Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-Southern Africa) told SW Radio Africa that skepticism is justified, given the “endemic corruption in Zimbabwe.” He said that a lack of political will is the key reason that corruption in mining and other sectors has been booming, and any anti-corruption plans by government need to be followed up by real action.
“We also need a complete paradigm shift in Zimbabwe, because corruption is so deep-rooted. Even if measures are taking in the diamond mining firms, what measures are there to stop corruption spreading again?” Chaumba questioned.