Zimbabwe is set to nationalize diamond exploration in the Marange area after allegations of the nation having been prejudiced of about $15 billion in revenue. This comes after the Mines Minister, Walter Chidhakwa ordered all companies to stop explorations on the premise of them not having renewed their licences. One of the affected companies, Anjin is of Chinese origin and there have been fears this could affect diplomatic ties between China and Zimbabwe.
In his 92nd birthday interview that was beamed on national television in Zimbabwe, President Mugabe unapologetically declared, “The state will now own all the diamonds in the country.” Indeed this made investors pose and think but considering the reasons given, it is a highly sensible strategic move. He explained it by saying, “Companies that have been mining diamonds have robbed us of our wealth. That is why we have now said the state must have a monopoly.”
Indeed for a country in financial doldrums to be leaking as much money as $15 billion in a space of less than five years is just preposterous to say the least. What is however disheartening is that the main enemies might be elements in the government itself. According to The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), the state has 50% ownership in all companies that were operational in the Marange diamond fields except in Marange Resources where it had 100%. What could have stopped the government from figuring the leakages before as much as $15 billion was lost?
In response to the question of how the government could have lost oversight of the operations in the Marange diamond fields, Mugabe said, “So where have our gold or carats have been going- the gems and there has been quite a lot of secrecy in handling them and we have been blinded ourselves.” He went on to say the people expected to be the government’s eyes and ears had not been able to see or hear what was going on. It is highly suspect though that they would have a hard time finding these exposing secrets when they represented a shareholder in the form of the state. What has changed now? Surely some people were in cahoots with the thieves and these should be singled out and brought to the political trap-door.
It is alleged that the Zimbabwean Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines was denied access to Marange on two occasions. Clearly someone was hiding something the whole time and yet, no whistles were blown. This begs the question; who blows the whistle? What if the whistle-blower is the offender? The CNRG alleges that “private planes were allowed to land in Marange without being searched to determine the quantity, volume and value of diamonds they were exporting.” Zimbabwe deserves answers. Who allowed these things to happen? Yes, ridding the fields of the foreign companies is a step in the right direction as there were various irregularities in their deployment anyway but is this the entire solution? Heads should roll in the government. Money laundering and smuggling militated against what should have been Zimbabwe’s saving grace in these hard times while fat cats in grey suits ate into the citizenry’s share of the pie.
Though some government officials most likely had a hand, they were in a partnership with internationally acclaimed looters and corporate degenerates. One of the condemned is Chinese firm, Anjin Investments and this has the raised the question of just how much foreign policy consideration was put in the decision of expelling the company. President Mugabe however said he had talked to Xi Jinping about it and told him the government “didn’t like it (Anjin Investments) anymore in this country”. It is yet to be seen if indeed President Jinping did not take offence but who cares? Can looters be protected for fear of a backlash? What of the current prejudice being suffered in silence? Surely corporate monsters should be cut loose at whatever cost. Africa has had enough of
As it stands, no one knows how the government will go about explorations but the companies are going to court to get their mining assets back. The State seems to be open-minded about how it will progress but the underlying principle as President Mugabe put it is, “You cannot trust a private company in that area, none at all and we should have learnt from the experiences of countries like Botswana, Angola, Namibia, etc.” Indeed Botswana now gets 70% from the revenue De Beers makes. Profits should be seen to develop the areas they are coming from. Now that there is a vacuum in the Marange area, will it again become a war-zone as poverty stricken Zimbabweans face off with the army and police in the fields for the Marange diamond? It stands to be seen but fingers are crossed the decision to stop operations does not culminate in another bloody showdown between civilians and the armed forces.
Image Credit: CNN