Monday, November 21, 2011
Mpofu’s 1 700km human wall will not stop flying diamonds
Our Mines minister, the rich Cde Obert Mpofu, self-proclaimed “obedient son” of President Robert Mugabe, is an amazing fellow.
He wants Zimbabwe’s shoestring budget to finance the policing of the 1 700km Zimbabwe-Mozambique border in order to stop what he admits is massive smuggling of diamonds from Marange into Mozambique and Zambia.
Such an undertaking would require perhaps a whole battalion of soldiers and/or policemen at a staggering cost. What I find ridiculous about this Mpofu submission is the logic behind it.
The simple question a basic mind would be quick to ask is why anyone would want to sent battalions to man a 1 700km stretch to plug pilferage of diamonds out of a diamond field already teeming with armed military men, sniffer dogs, mounted horses, razor wire, cameras – you name it?
Why should we still have “massive smuggling” of the precious stones when we already have such tight security, Cde Mpofu?
Who is doing the “massive smuggling”? Are we still talking about the common thief here or is it a case of “official plunder” that the minister and government have vehemently denied?
Zimbabwe got the Kimberley Process (KP) green light to trade in diamonds after Mpofu did a sterling job of convincing the KP that reports of massive looting involving top government and security officials were all Anglo-Saxon lies.
Yet Mpofu told a Parliamentary pre-budget seminar in Victoria Falls two weeks ago he was disturbed by the magnitude of the smuggling.
To illustrate the enormity of the plunder, the minister said he was shocked when Zambia and Mozambique allegedly sought to join the international trade watchdog scheme, the KP, despite not having diamond deposits of their own.
“When I was in the DRC last week, Zambia and Mozambique said they wanted to join the KPCS (Kimberley Process Certification Scheme), but they don’t have any information that they have diamonds. But we have information that a lot of our diamonds went through these countries.
“There are massive leakages at the border posts, but policing of the border is not the responsibility of the Mines ministry. We believe our diamonds are being clandestinely smuggled out of the country,” Mpofu said.
Instead of focusing on plugging the obvious leaks at the diamond fields, Mpofu said he wanted government to install modern scanning machinery at the country’s border posts to reduce the smuggling.
No concerns have been raised about reports that private jets of wealthy Chinese, Indian and other nationals with the necessary connections, land at Harare International Airport to pick up diamonds mined from Marange with payments for the loot done offshore. No paper trail is left behind, making it impossible to trace the illegal exports.
But we must deploy hundreds of foot soldiers and policemen to patrol the border as evidence of government desire to stop smuggling! Meanwhile, the minister was ecstatic about Zimbabwe’s final victory in the war to have our stones declared clean.
“This is a historical development we all had been waiting for,” Mpofu said upon his return from the DRC.
“We want to shock and shake the world. We are going to unleash our worthiness to the world and Zimbabwe will not beg for anything from anybody again.
I am instructing diamond mines in Marange to ratchet their operations and sell in a big way. It is not a secret that Zimbabwe has the largest diamond reserves in the world.
Our sovereign rights to trade in our diamonds had been unjustifiably denied by participants with hostile foreign policies on Zimbabwe.”
Should we then assume the systematic looting that has allegedly been taking place will be stopped now that we can sell our diamonds on the open market?
The fact that has obtained at our diamond fields is that there are serious governance failings – almost deliberate – with regard to securing the area.
Instead of suggesting a 1 700km human wall along a far-off border, government should have long secured the area by more foolproof measures.
The nature of some of the failures to do so makes it appear a deliberate effort to keep Chiadzwa open for smuggling.
The various violent programmes put in place, ostensibly to plug diamond pilferage, failed because they were never meant to stop the real “official mass plunder”.
Other than hurting the small, insignificant bare-hand diamond digger, how far could such brutal programmes as Operation Chikorokoza Chapera, Operation Restore Order, Operation Hakudzokwi and Operation Wakazviwanepi have been expected to stop the illegal airlifting of diamonds from the diamond mines or from the airport in Harare?
This business of border patrols simply makes no sense given the kind of security already in place at Chiadzwa against the magnitude of the diamond plunder that Minister Mpofu acknowledges has reached scales where non-diamond producing countries are seeking licences to trade in the stones although they have no diamond mines.
Seeking to seal the country’s borders with a human fence in order to stop theft at a localised diamond field does not sound very logical, Comrade Minister.