ALL diamond mining firms should be required by law to publish contracts and agreements to ensure transparency and accountability, a lobby group has recommended.
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The recommendations by the Centre for Natural Resource and Governance (CNRG) are likely to put the spotlight on Marange diamonds, where transparency and accountability are alien, according to civil society organisations.
“All diamond mining companies should be compelled by law to publish their contracts, MoUs [Memorandum of Understanding] and any other agreements entered into with government and local authorities. This will enable the local community to monitor implementation of the agreements and demand accountability,” CNRG said in an analysis of the Diamond Policy.
Last year, government launched the Diamond Policy containing a roadmap on how the industry would operate.
Among its major thrust is that the policy advocates sovereign ownership of resources by Zimbabweans through the state.
“If the people of Zimbabwe are to maximise benefits from the country’s diamond wealth, it is important for the state to hold a controlling stake in all diamond ventures, so as to widen its revenue base and minimise exploitation by foreign interests,” CNRG said.
CNRG said that diamond mining is a technical industry and expertise is needed from partners to unlock value taking a leaf from Botswana where Debswana, the venture between the Botswana government and De Beers, has resulted in diamonds becoming the mainstay of the economy.
“Qualifications such as a proven track record in diamond mining and sound financial standing should be stated in the policy to ensure the country does not award tenders to bogus or controversial mining corporations,” CNRG said.
It said transparency was key to ensure that predatory elites do not mono- polise diamond revenue.
At an inaugural Diamond Conference last year, former South African President Thabo Mbeki said Zimbabwe’s political leadership should ensure that the diamond benefits cascaded to the masses.
“. . . all the parties which serve in the current inclusive government established because of the GPA, must absolutely ensure that the diamond mining industry is not governed by a predatory elite which uses its access to state power to enrich itself, against the interests of the people as a whole, acting in collusion with the mining companies,” Mbeki said.
CNRG recommended a strong oversight role by parliament.
“In the spirit of separation of powers, parliament should be granted unfettered access to diamond mines and to all information pertaining to diamond mining activities,” it said.
In 2011, the parliamentary portfolio committee on mines and energy battled to secure a hearing with the diamond producers in Marange. The producers only came after MPs had threatened to invoke parliamentary powers to punish the producers.
In his state of the economy statement last week, Finance minister Tendai Biti said President Robert Mugabe would soon sign into law legislation compelling diamond producers from Marange to remit half of its revenue to the treasury. This came after diamond revenue to treasury has been trickling in despite the producers having recorded sales.
who is into diamond mining in marange?
Four companies — Mbada, Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Corporation (DMC) and Anjin — are mining in Marange. Government, through the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) wholly owns Marange Resources and is in a 50-50 joint venture with foreign investors in Mbada and DMC. Anjin’s shareholding is unclear amid revelations that the army is partnering the Chinese to mine in Marange.