AN African think tank has fired a broadside at the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) for alleged “secretive” deals in the Marange diamond fields, where it controls substantial shareholding in four mining houses on behalf of government.The ZMDC’s involvement in the diamond sector was a “commercial monopolisation” of the industry, according to Africa Progress Report (APR).
It controls 50 percent shareholding in three of the four mines operating in Marange and a 100 percent stake in Marange Resources, the fourth operation exploiting the germs.
But the ZMDC’s operations have been a source of controversy, with a recent parliamentary report querying the selection of a company called Reclaim and Core Mining as joint venture partners.
A ZMDC board member was alleged to have tried to mislead the parliamentary committee into believing that the choice of the two investors had been made through a Cabinet decision.
The committee’s report exposed serious discrepancies between inflows into Treasury from the sector and what diamond firms had claimed to have remitted to State coffers.
In its 2013 report released three weeks ago, APR, which consists of 10 distinguished African and global personalities who had been advocating equitable and sustainable African development, also expressed reservations over the “shocking” killings and displacement of defenceless artisanal miners in a military crackdown in the fields in 2006.
It urged the ZMDC to account for human rights abuses in Marange, and emphasised the need for transparency in the administration of diamonds to spread their benefit beyond a small enclave.
The Marange diamond fields have the world’s richest gem deposits.
“The 60 000 hectare Marange site was declared a commercial monopoly of the ZMDC, which has sold concessions under highly secretive conditions to domestic and foreign mineral interests,” said the APR report.
“Since then, there have been further waves of eviction, with smallholder farmers moved to make way for concession holders. There are well documented reports of mining companies polluting Save River with toxins that pose a threat to public health,” said APR, which described the crackdown on informal miners as “shocking”.
“One of the most shocking recent episodes of human rights violations against artisanal miners occurred in Zimbabwe,” it said.
In the 2013 National Budget, then finance minister, Tendai Biti said dividends from the diamond sector only amounted to US$41 million in 2012.
However, Mbada Diamonds, one of the largest diamond mines in Marange, had claimed during the period that it had remitted US$117 million in dividends, which was far above what Treasury received in 2011 and 2012.
Thousands of artisanal miners flooded Marange in 2006 following the discovery of the diamond resources.
But they were immediately evicted in a bloody security operation called Hakudzokwi (you will not return) involving helicopter gunships and the military.
The number of the dead had until now not been accounted for.
The exodus into the Marange diamond fields was driven by an economic meltdown that gripped the country between 2006 and 2008, which triggered massive capital flight, company closures and high unemployment.
Zimbabwe’s year-on-year inflation closed 2008 at about 500 billion percent, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Hospitals had run out of medical supplies and schools had been grounded due to a shortage of books and teachers.
Government, battling a devastating economic embargo imposed on President Robert Mugabe’s regime by the West, failed to implement measures that would arrest food shortages, forcing thousands to swamp gold and diamond fields across Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean national and Econet Wireless Zimbabwe founder, Strive Masiyiwa, is among members of the APR. It is chaired by former United Nations secretary general, Kofi Anan.
Other members of the panel include former IMF managing director, Michel Camdessus, former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, Peter Eigen of Transparency International, Bob Geldof, a prominent businessman, wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, governor of the Bank of Botswana, Linah Mahohlo, Robert Rubin, co-chairman of the US council on foreign relations and Prudential Plc chief executive officer, Tidjane Thiam.
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