corruptionwatch:WITH TAWANDA MAJONI
Roberto De Pretto, a fine gentleman by many standards, left his post as the acting CEO at the Zimbabwe Consolidated Mining Company (ZCDC) late last month.
Some say he was thrown out; he and others say he resigned from the position he had held since May 2019.
He was the chief operating officer prior to his elevation when the then CEO, Morris Mpofu, was fired for alleged abuse of office.
With a career in diamond mining that spanned more than 32 years — having worked for De Beers, Anglo American and Diamcar — ZCDC, the merger that was set up when several firms were kicked out in late 2016, seems to have lost a valuable resource in De Pretto.
Rumour millers — those chaps that break the news ahead of official confirmation or spirited denials — say De Pretto was frustrated that the Zimbabwean government was imposing diamond mining companies on ZCDC, with the tiniest regard for due process and good corporate governance.
De Pretto, on the other hand, said he had to leave to rejoin his family.
That, of course, is the diplomatese — the language of diplomatic people — that we always hear when a top guy leaves office.
But it’s not convincing, of course, that the De Pretto family missed him so much to the extent of pressuring him to quit such a big job.
Which means the real story lies elsewhere, and it cannot be a rosy one.
You naturally become pessimistic when you remember Anjin Investments.
Anjin has been readmitted to mine diamonds in Chiadzwa after being kicked out in 2016.
Tendai Biti, when he was Finance minister in the government of national unity (sic) between 2009 and 2013, said Anjin never remitted a single cent to government, nor any financial reports.
This accusation has been repeated by the Centre for Natural Resource Governance.
Anjin, in its former self, was a joint venture between Matt Bronze and Anhui from China.
When the venture was set up, Brigadier General Charles Tarumbwa signed for Matt Bronze.
That made Matt Bronze a military company. Peng Zheng represented Anhui, which some people believe represents strategic Chinese interests.
A Kremlin-controlled outfit, Alrosa, is the other mining company that has been given a licence to operate in Marange.
It got the licence soon after President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited Russia in 2019 and held business talks with Vladimir Putin.
Anjin got back its licence after the president visited China.
Right from the onset, something doesn’t sit well with the readmission of Anjin, as was also the case with Alrosa.
In late 2018, the Zimbabwean cabinet adopted a national diamond policy.
Immediately after, we were told that two companies would soon be given licences to mine in the diamond fields.
Winston Chitando, the Mines minister, promised to announce the two companies “in due course”.
Problem is, due course never came.
What came, instead, were Anjin and Alrosa, tiptoeing.
Their coming was so stealthy it was easier to hear a pin drop on wool.
The question is, why were things made to happen that way?
The diamond policy limited the number of diamond miners in Zimbabwe to four.
That seems to mean ZCDC, Anjin, Alrosa and Rio Zim, which was already operating elsewhere.
This is only an assumption because Zimbabwe being Zimbabwe, we could still later learn of another entity coming in without us being told anything about it in public.
What’s irritating here is that the government has never bothered to explain things despite promising us a vast field of transparency and accountability.
More about Alrosa later in this space.
For now, the dice is on Anjin.
There are numerous things that the Zimbabwean government must publicly explain in order to avoid unnecessary local and international scrutiny.
A few weeks ago, I queried why Zimbabwe found it prudent to readmit Anjin despite its unflattering history.
That question remains relevant. What has changed now about this outfit?
It was evicted for under-declaring its production during Robert Mugabe’s time and came back when Mugabe was removed from power.
Government promised an audit of Anjin and other mining companies. Nothing has happened.
It becomes extremely difficult to see the prudence of bringing back Anjin, and it doesn’t look like there was any due diligence done, in spite of the national diamond mining policy’s insistence on that.
If Anjin indeed stole diamonds in the first place, surely, there can’t be any good reason to believe it won’t steal diamonds this time around.
There can’t be any good reason, also, to believe that Anjin has rechristened itself into a competent corporate entity that abides by Zimbabwean laws.
The diamond mining policy says new players can own more than 49% of stakes, unlike what the Indigenisation Act demanded back then.
No problem. But what we are not being told is the “new” Anjin’s shareholding structure.
It’s not yet clear if it remains as it was before.
Well, we never exactly knew what it was, anyway, because of the thick opacity that surrounded it.
For a change, though, there is need for government to tell us who the shareholders are and what stakes they own.
Is Matt Bronze still there? If so, how much has gone to it? And how much now belongs to ZCDC or the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation? What about Anhui? Are there new stakeholders?
Closely related to this is the issue of the Anjin licence.
It would be useful for us to know whether Anjin is using the old licence that was just renewed or there is a new one.
This is important because it seems there is a new narrative out there. If Anjin is no longer mining in its old concession, surely, the firm can’t be using the old licence.
There would be need to do a new environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the new concession.
Since Anjin is already operating, the sanest conclusion to make is that Anjin did a new EIA if it is no longer mining on the old concession.
But if it has moved to a new concession, there is need for a new EIA.
Yet if the new concession is in an area which was already being mined by another entity — ZCDC for instance — it would be fraudulent, very criminal, for Anjin to use an EIA from a different site.
It’s still murky how Anjin is relating with ZCDC in terms of mining operations, and that is another thing the government must explain.
What percentage has been given to ZCDC? Also quite interesting is how the “new” Anjin licence relates with the diamond mining policy.
The policy stipulates that the new miners would have to surrender a percentage of rough diamonds to a value management centre meant to clean, sort and valuate the diamonds and to be operated by ZCDC.
We haven’t heard of the establishment of that centre, so it’s not clear where the rough diamond quota is going.
l Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT) and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org