Why have they brought back Anjin?

corruptionwatch:WITH TAWANDA MAJONI In Zimbabwe, when things move, they are going round in circles. That means that, where there is appearance of movement, things are merely busy going nowhere. Take the case of the diamonds, particularly as they relate to Anjin Investments.

corruptionwatch:WITH TAWANDA MAJONI

In Zimbabwe, when things move, they are going round in circles. That means that, where there is appearance of movement, things are merely busy going nowhere. Take the case of the diamonds, particularly as they relate to Anjin Investments.

Just recently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa went to Manicaland and officially re-launched the operations of Anjin Investments in the infamous Marange gem fields. Anjin was forced out, together with six other diamond companies, in late 2016. They gave way to a merger, the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), a government outfit that has been running on red since then.

The re-launch was just a formalisation of a process that had started well prior to that. Mnangagwa travelled to Beijing in 2018 and met his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, who wasn’t amused that the previous administration of the late Robert Mugabe had evicted Chinese interests from the diamond fields in Marange.

By early 2019, there was talk of Anjin set for a return, even though the talk was somewhat unsure and muffled. Key government officials said they were not aware of Anjin’s comeback. Ministry of Mines permanent secretary, Onesimo Moyo, and the Manicaland provincial mining director, Omen Dube, were in the dark.

Anjin stealthily returned to the fields around December last year and has resumed operations. Of course, almost a year after, people are still to know what it is now doing out there.

Anjin was evicted alongside the other six mining companies for, officially, under-declaring its production and losing the memory to pay tax. But you also know that Anjin was guilty of a whole range of other sins. Racism. Capitalist exploitation of workers. Human rights abuses. Sexual harassment of female workers by its Chinese staff, et cetera.

Ex-president Mugabe had gone on television whining that the diamond miners had stolen billions big enough to run the country for three consecutive years. And the Office of the Auditor General and Comptroller as well as parliament confirmed that Anjin never produced financial statements for the more than half a decade it was operating in Marange, before the ZCDC merger.

The point, though, is that Anjin is back. And that presents a whole field of problems. But first things first. Way back in 2016 when the merger was established, government publicly claimed that it was going to conduct an audit of diamond mining in Marange with the help of a reputable auditing company. That was the last time we heard about the audit.

There is nothing surprising about our government not doing what it promises to do. It seems, in fact, that the successive Zanu PF governments wouldn’t consider themselves in power if they didn’t violate their own promises. It’s a culture. What’s bothersome in this case is that Anjin is coming back in the absence of the audit that would have told us the truth about what happened in Marange between 2008 and 2016.

Several challenges come with that. We have a company that contributed to the massive leakage of diamonds returning. There is no reason to believe that the company has repented. In the absence of a comprehensive audit, we will never know the real extent to which Anjin bled the economy. That means we may never know the extent to which Anjin will further bleed the economy. From a corporate governance point of view, that’s not how you are going to think of making the economy open for business. You don’t open business up to crooks.

That doesn’t make business sense because it doesn’t inspire investor confidence, nor does it guarantee meaningful production. You see, the only sensible reason to bring in or back an investor is to ensure meaningful production and positive contribution to the economy. Outside that, it’s absurd to take to the skies with a whole village of aides and fawning cheerleaders amid a lockdown to re-launch a company like Anjin as the president has just done.

It’s even more unsettling when the return of the diamond miner is shrouded in secrecy. Hands up if you know how the government came up with the decision to re-admit Anjin, and only Anjin. Ordinarily, there are set rules and procedures that must be followed when you are giving a licence to a mining company. Obviously, some paperwork has been done, but were the rules and procedures followed as per the book?

This, in fact, is a small question. The big question is: What, then, does the readmission of Anjin mean for the so-called consolidated merger? The merger was meant to bring diamond production and marketing under one tent. It’s awkward when you take back a company that you kicked out in the first place and let it run alongside the merger. How will the law and merger policy be managed without bringing in contradictions, inconsistencies and absurdities?

Then there is the issue of Zimbabwe’s sovereignty. Since Mugabe’s long-drawn time as head of state, the Zanu PF mantra has been around sovereignty. Mugabe told Tony Blair to keep his England as he would keep his Zimbabwe. When the European Union and the US impose sanctions, they say our sovereignty is being undermined for taking back the land that belongs to us. But you can’t be so selective. Let the gander fly with the goose. Why is Mnangagwa’s administration ready to surrender Zimbabwean sovereignty to Xi Jinping where Anjin is concerned? Why must he surrender that sovereignty so that a looting company can come back and loot again?

But maybe the answer is not too distant to pick. It seems to lie in the military factor of the Zimbabwean political economy. Anjin is a joint venture between the Zimbabwean army’s Matt Bronze special purpose vehicle and China’s Anhui Foreign Economic Construction firm, with sprinklings of the Harare government through modest shareholding of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation. Anhui has been linked to the Chinese security sector, if not strategic Chinese national interests. How else would you explain the fact that Jinping was livid that Mugabe evicted Anjin in 2016?

Jinan Mining, another Chinese diamond miner that used to operate in Marange, has been left out. But then, Global Witness, a corruption watchdog, said it suspected it was an extension of Anjin.

Read that in conjunction with the November 2017 militarily assisted takeover of power from Mugabe, who seemed to have fallen out of favour with Beijing. The Zimbabwean military still has a strong sense of entitlement for helping kick Mugabe out. In fact, it believes that the sun shines through its bowels for having done that and believes it is owed a big share of the post-Mugabe cake.

The Mnangagwa leadership hasn’t made things any better by failing so hugely to get the army eating comfortably. It’s not unsafe to say the army feels shortchanged. Particularly so, the big military chefs. The rank and file is suffering poor salaries and other sorts. The big gunners, save for a few, are unlikely to have received meaningful rewards for their sweat. That naturally points towards low morale in the army. Add to that those stubborn but officially refuted rumours about an imminent military coup.

l Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT) and can be contacted on [email protected].