Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mpofu tussle over diamond revenue

Minister, Tendai Biti, and Mines and Mining minister, Obert Mpofu, are expected to meet soon to strategise on ways of making sure that revenue from the sale of diamonds flows into the national treasury to benefit all Zimbabweans. The meeting comes amid accusations that the bulk of the revenue from diamond sales was being used to fund Zanu PF-related projects to bolster the party’s chances of winning the forthcoming elections scheduled for this year or 2013.

There is also a veil of secrecy surrounding the mining operations, marketing and sale of the diamonds from Marange district in Manicaland province.

Biti raised the red flag on Wednesday, saying out of the projected US$77,5 million from diamonds, Treasury had received only US$19,5 million in January and February. This has raised concern that the US$600 million target won’t be met, throwing the 2012 budget in disarray.

The Finance minister said the matter was debated in cabinet on Tuesday and was given the assurance inflows would improve during the course of the year and is now expecting a “fat cheque” from diamonds.

Government has said the revenue from diamonds would be deployed towards infrastructural development.

Mpofu told The Standard that Biti was worried as diamond revenue was not coming in as expected. “The Minister of Finance has asked for a meeting so that we can re-strategise. We had wanted to surpass the target but with sanctions it is difficult to achieve that,” Mpofu said.

Mpofu also said one could not talk of transparency if sanctions on the diamond producers remained in place.

“How do you become transparent when you know there is a lion waiting for you to just walk in front of it and maul you? That is the effect of sanctions. If they know how you are trading, they will interfere with that,” Mpofu said.

“They just want to know who is buying what and when and how he is paying so they pounce on that transaction through their international networks.”

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