Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Biti says diamond exports and revenues not tallying

Several headlines in recent months have raised serious questions about the abuse of revenues coming from diamonds in Marange. These include: ‘Mines Minister in US$2 billion diamond fraud’, and: ‘Mining company pledges to pay civil servants’. The latest statement from Finance Minister Tendai Biti that diamond exports and revenues are not tallying-up, all suggest a systematic abuse of diamond proceeds.

It has been well documented that the Zimbabwean military and security chiefs have a dominant role in diamond mining in the country. It is the growing misuse of the money to achieve political domination that is coming out clearly. Only last week the state owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation was accused of side-stepping treasury to pay top salaries for civil servants.

SW Radio Africa has been told that the motive was to ensure a promise, made by Robert Mugabe, to award the increases was delivered, as well as to make the MDC-T and Finance Minister Tendai Biti look like the stumbling blocks to civil servants earning a decent wage. Biti has made the argument that the Treasury is broke and does not have the money. He has clashed several times with the Mines Minister over unaccounted for diamond revenues.
Presenting his budget review this week Biti repeated the same concerns.

“There are times when resources instead of being a blessing become a curse. The reality of Zimbabwe’s situation is that there is no connection between Zimbabwe’s income from diamonds and its output in international prices,” he said. Out of more than 700 000 carats exported this year only US$103, 9 million worth was accounted for.

Diamond rights activist Farai Maguwu told SW Radio Africa: “I think what is clear here is that we have got parallel government structures operating in Zimbabwe and one is in charge of resources including diamonds.”

Maguwu said at a meeting of the Kimberley Process diamond watchdog in Kinshasa last month, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu accused the United Arab Emirates of confiscating Zimbabwean diamonds. This, Maguwu said, suggested ‘secret diamond sales’ that are not being accounted for.

Meanwhile Mines Minister Obert Mpofu has been sucked into a US$2 billion diamond fraud case after lawyers representing diamond dealer Lovemore Kurotwi insisted the Minister must also stand trial. Defence lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said Mpofu endorsed the deal and took part in meetings held in South Africa. She said not only was Mpofu was aware of the deal he even briefed the government on it.

Mpofu is accused of going on a property-buying spree and this was enough to attract the attention of a parliamentary committee investigating the plunder diamonds from Marange. He owns several properties in Bulawayo including one of the tallest buildings in the city, York House. The minister also bankrolled the building of a luxury casino last year, owns about 27 properties in Victoria Falls and two cruise boats on the Zambezi.

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