By Thomas Mupfuka
Zimbabwe’s diamond production dropped by a staggering 78,9% in July as prices for the gemstones also tumbled on the international market.
The Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), the state-owned miner, has been going through a turbulent time following the sacking of at least nine top executives.
ZCDC CEO Morris Mpofu and chief finance officer Charles Gambe were shown the door after they were arrested on allegations of criminal abuse of office. Insiders said the shake-up was behind the huge drop in production figures.
According to figures obtained from the Mines and Mining Development ministry, diamond production at ZCDC’s mines in
July plummeted to 37 052 carats from 175 768 carats the previous month.
ZCDC only made US$1,7 million in July compared to US$7,9 million the previous month.
ZCDC corporate communications manager Sugar Chagonda did not respond to questions sent to him.
A source in the company, however, said although the falling prices were a factor, there were other varying reasons such as poor quality of the diamonds and lack of leadership at ZCDC.
“The issue of Zimbabwean diamonds is that the quality does not fetch much on the international market, but, however, there are allegations that the company’s top management is still involved in under declarations and underhand dealings that could be affecting operations,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.
Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe general manager Tongai Muzenda said diamond prices had fallen drastically over the past three months.
“The issue at ZCDC is a serious one, prices of gemstones have dropped by 30-40% in the last three months,” he said.
Meanwhile, the appointment of a new executive at the ZCDC has reportedly been delayed by ongoing negotiations between the state-owned firm and its new partner, Alrosa from Russia.
Alrosa has been accused of making “unreasonable” demands including paying a low fee for lucrative claims.
The Russian diamond giant in July signed an agreement with ZCDC, which will see Alrosa releasing close to US$12 million for diamond exploration.
In 2016, government booted out diamond miners from the Marange mining area and created ZCDC.
Zimbabwe has not benefited much from diamond mining amid allegations of pilfering by the ruling elite.
Mines minister Winston Chitando had not responded to queries at the time of going to print.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube is pinning the country’s growth prospects on increased diamond revenues and receipts from gold exports.