President Robert Mugabe’s startling revelation last week that diamonds worth as much as $15 billion could have been stolen by miners in the Marange area will have been greeted by an uprising in societies with a culture of holding their governments to account.
THE STANDARD EDITORIAL
Those that presided over the government agencies supervising diamond mining operations in Marange will have resigned in shame.
Mugabe, in his capacity as the president of this country would not have waited for his traditional ZTV interview — that was delayed by several days — to speak about this grand theft.
He would have arranged a state of the nation address to speak about this scandal and spell out the government’s response, instead of addressing Zanu PF factionalism as he did that Friday.
However, this is Zimbabwe. The brazen theft of national resources has become so common that citizens would not be bothered by the disappearance of $15 billion that could have gone to empty Treasury coffers.
Mugabe said the government only realised less than $2 billion from diamonds mined in Marange since taking over the fields in 2009.
As usual, the president did not take the responsibility for the chaos that was created by his government.
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti repeatedly raised the alarm about the looting of diamonds during his stint in government, but was brushed aside by his Zanu PF colleagues who were probably the biggest beneficiaries of the looting.
It is highly hypocritical for Mugabe to moan about the “stolen” diamonds today when his government chose to pay a blind eye to the theft when it was exposed.
The companies that were operating in Marange were doing so as government partners through the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).
ZMDC — which held a 50% stake in each of the ventures — was supposed to be the eyes and ears of the government.
The Mines ministry, headed by Obert Mpofu at the time and Walter Chidhakwa now, knew what was happening in Marange.
It is inconceivable that all that money was spirited out of the diamond fields without the government’s knowledge.
The government demonised Zimbabweans that called for greater transparency in diamond mining because it knew that it was hiding something and now the cat has been let out of the bag.
Mugabe did not say what steps his government would take to recover the stolen money, choosing to dwell on his administration’s Stone Age policy to nationalise diamond mines.
Besides further spoiling the country’s already tough investment climate, the government’s decision to nationalise the diamond mines has created all sorts of problems for Zimbabwe.
The investors that were led down the garden path in Manicaland are not taking the decision lightly and some have already approached the courts to seek justice.
On Friday the High Court ruled that Chidhakwa was in contempt of court for failing to ensure that Grandwell Holdings, which has a stake in Mbada Diamonds, had access to the mine in Marange.
The mining firms were last month ordered to immediately wind up their operations and leave Marange as the government took over the mines, but the High Court later ruled that Grandwell Holdings should be granted access to the mining site.
Anjin Investments, which was also forced to shut down its mining operations in Chiadzwa, said the government’s move was in breach of the Agreement on Encouragement and Reciprocal Protection of Investments between Zimbabwe and China.
Mugabe’s government has a history of making knee-jerk decisions that tend to backfire spectacularly — much to the detriment of the economy.
Zimbabweans must not fold their hands as the government plunders the country’s God-given natural resources.
They must make the government account for the missing diamonds money now or they will forever be taken advantage of by predatory politicians whose only interest is to line up their pockets.