BUHERA – Manicaland minister of State Mandi Chimene (pictured) yesterday called for a probe into Zanu PF bigwigs accused of swindling million of dollars from diamond mining companies, an apparent image clean-up ahead of elections expected next year.
Briefing First Lady Grace Mugabe at a rally in Buhera yesterday, Chimene said the province was rich in diamonds and gold yet parts of the province remained underdeveloped and its people reeling from abject poverty.
Her sentiments tally with alarm raised by Partnership Africa Canada, a member of the Kimberley Process initiative against “blood diamonds”, which said in a recent report at least $2 billion of revenues from the eastern Marange diamond fields had been stolen by people linked to President Robert Mugabe’s party.
“The development in Manicaland was supposed to move at the speed of a rocket because as you know us Manyikas have our own things. We have natural resources second to no other place in the country,” Chimene said. Marange was regarded as one of the world’s richest alluvial diamond deposits, but its resources are depleting, experts say. Marange hogged international headlines in 2008 when the government unfurled police crackdowns on illegal diamond miners and smugglers, resulting in as many as 200 deaths. Even when formal mining began in 2009, reports of abuses against illegal miners caught sneaking into the mining fields continued.
Surrounded by diamonds, villagers were going hungry, Chimene said.
“But with all our diamonds, nothing has been channelled toward development of this province,” Chimene bemoaned.
“Gold here is as numerous as sand. We have gold but our people have nothing . . . sometimes the problem is that our ministries are not working together. And also there is this big worm called corruption that has crept into our system.”
Chimene said ordinary citizens trying to eke a living were the hardest hit by the looting.
“Amai, all the people you see gathered here, no one has the ambition to become president here,” she said.
“No one aspires to have money here; no one wants to even be an MP. But us we want things. We want money to survive but we don’t want money to remove Grace Mugabe. We are ones killing our people . . . but should all these people, should they suffer for the sins of one person?”
Chimene’s remarks come as Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa revealed last week that diamonds mining in the country is now “as good as dead”.
Following Mines minister Walter Chidakwa’s decision to merge all diamond mining companies operating in Marange into a single entity, the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), the gems production dramatically plummeted to low levels.
Last year, the Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines said output in the diamond mining subsector has plunged by a massive 40 percent to two million carats, from 3,3 million carats in 2015. In 2014, about 4,7 million carats of diamonds were extracted from the fields, and the statistics produced by the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe revealed a sustained plunge in output triggered mostly by government’s interference in diamond mining.
Last year’s decline represented a loss of 1,3 million carats in just 12 months.
The diamond mining industry’s contribution to the sector’s revenues slowed to five percent last year, from 11 percent in 2015.