Authoritative sources said after ZMDC took over mining operations from Canadile in October last year, it subsequently absorbed Allfix Investments to form an independent security company known as National Eye, which has seen the appointment of inexperienced personnel to undertake security duties.
Those absorbed from Allfix Security have since been rendered redundant after they were relieved of their duties by the new employer.
Allfix comprised former soldiers and police officers who were employed to provide security services at Canadile’s claims.
The sources at the controversial diamond field said the change in the security set-up has enabled diamond dealers to take advantage of the lax security to loot the precious gems.
The sources said some senior officials were bulldozing their way into the fields without going through the normal security checks.
Before the change of the security set-up, they said, it was mandatory that everyone coming out of the fields would go thorough security checks.
“I can confirm that some of the people now employed with National Eye were taken from the streets at the passport office, some are ex-money changers and relatives of top officials who never received security training,” said a security guard, who has worked at the fields for more than two years.
“A lot of things are happening, security instructions are being tempered with, no cars are allowed in the washing plant but you find cars of officials parked inside, supposedly for transportation of diamonds and security cameras at the sorting house and washing plant are repeatedly frozen necessitating untraceable smuggling of diamonds.”
Reports say that diamonds worth as much as US$1 billion could have been illegally mined at the Marange fields between 2006 and 2008.
The new guards, most of whom have no security background, are now being touted as “Ice Cream Men” by diamond smugglers because of their inexperience.
“They don’t even know where to search,” said one source. “And, those who smuggle the diamonds are taking advantage of this security loophole.”
But ZMDC chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa claimed the leaks at the diamond fields had been reduced after Allfix’s contract was terminated as shown by the increase in output.
“I can confirm that right now the gem quality production has improved with an effective 12% since we took over,” he said.
“Statistics are showing that the gem quality is now at 20% opposed to the 8% that was being obtained before National Eye took over.
“This shows that the gems were being stolen and this explains the security crisis that was there, reports of diamond looting are merely a conspiracy of some of the disgruntled guards who were affected by other issues if ever they are the ones who gave you that information.
“There will always be loopholes linked to operations of a security company but losses made before National Eye took over were huge. Meanwhile we are satisfied and there is a development.”
Farai Maguwu, Centre for Research and Development (CRD) director said although his organisation had not carried out field visits in the past two months, information reaching him indicated that looting was continuing in Marange.
“Smuggling of diamonds is continuing because we have not seen a significant decline in diamond dealings in Mutare and Mozambique,” Maguwu said.
Research conducted by Human Rights Watch two years ago suggested that the police and military have benefited greatly from access to Marange’s mineral wealth.
Meanwhile, a labour dispute has also erupted after the 243 guards employed by Allfix who were absorbed by National Eye were dumped by the new employer under unclear circumstances.
They were not paid their November and December salaries.
Through their lawyers, Machinga & Partners, the dumped guards have since taken their case to the Labour Court for arbitration.
In the letter dated January 3 2011, the lawyers want the Labour Court to conciliate on their unlawful termination of contracts, non-payment of salaries and benefits as well as unfair labour practices.
“Management from Marange Resources (ZMC subsidiary) proceeded to advise our clients orally that they should submit applications for the jobs they held when they were still with Allfix which is rather unusual in a takeover of a business in such circumstances,” the lawyers said.
The guards were later told to leave the fields without their November and December salaries as well as terminal benefits.