By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
23 July, 2014
The government has gone ahead with plans to merge diamond mining firms in Marange, claiming this would “streamline their operations and ensure accountability of proceeds”, according to the state run Herald newspaper.
But the plan was dismissed by the director of the monitoring group Center for Community Development, Farai Maguwu, who described it as “cutting off the branches and leaving the stump in the ground” and he said nothing would change in the murky diamond world even if they merge the companies.
“What was needed in Marange was an independent commission of enquiry, possibly the parliamentary portfolio committee, to investigate why the companies are failing to remit to treasury. Is it about shareholding structures? Is it about involvement of politicians or parties in control of the companies,” Maguwu said.
The Herald quoted Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa as saying a formal statement will soon be made on the merging of the government owned Marange Resources and Gye Nyame, a Ghanaian company whose mining license had already been withdrawn.
Chidhakwa said negotiations are in progress to merge other diamond firms, with the aim of “curbing leakage in diamond revenue and enhance transparency in diamond mining”.
But Maguwu said without investigations to determine what has happened so far, the companies left to mine will continue to divert money from the treasury. He added that cleaning up diamond mining will not be possible because there are “strong and powerful people who are untouchable”.
The industry has been mired in controversy over non-remittance to the national treasury and its ownership structure has never been clear, with civil groups accusing top government and military officials of pocketing revenue and committing human rights abuses in the local Marange and Chiadzwa areas.
The development comes just months after government formally informed the mining companies that only one or two would remain licensed to operate in Chiadzwa, accusing them of failing to account for their revenue and ignoring their commitment to benefit the local Marange Zimunya Community Share Trust.
But some independent groups that investigated the Chiadzwa dealings, including Partnership Africa Canada, accused the Mugabe regime of operating a “parallel government” funded by proceeds from illegal diamond sales.
A reader commenting on the Herald story wrote: “Even when Government had total control or 51% or more, theoretically holding the whip hand, the lack of accountability and transparency was self-evident from the empty government treasury coffers. What improvements to accountability can be guaranteed through consolidation when the choice of those in the driving seat will be from the same crowd of corrupt deadwood?”