The Tale of Lost Diamonds: A Synopsis of the Marange Scandal

Looted Diamonds: Zimbabwe's Diamond Mining sector has been a cause for much question. From blood diamonds to looted diamonds.
Looted Diamonds: Zimbabwe's Diamond Mining sector has been a cause for much question. From blood diamonds to looted diamonds.

By Takudzwanashe Mundenga

 In a delayed interview to mark his 92nd birthday celebrations on state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, President Mugabe said over US$ 15 billion leaked from the diamond industry by evading the national coffers to unknown endpoints. This is the world’s largest diamond territory we are talking about and is a cause of distress and debate not only among indigenous political pundits but to all the eyewitnesses of the sufferings of the Zimbabwean people since the embryonic looming of our economic downturn.

We are not sure whether US$ 15 billion is the actual figure or the Head of State was extrapolating in his wealthy of language and articulacy, but let us all resolve that Zimbabwe’s diamond industry has shady areas on its financial statements. It might not be US$ 15 billion but still an obscene amount.

Corruption which is an antithesis to development of all stratifications is indeed one of the primary reasons why Zimbabwe is failing to step forward economically since the revelation of the Willowgate Scandal in the independence aftermath hitherto. The method by which the vehicle-smuggling episode later to be known as Willowgate Scandal was handled by the state, furtively condoned corruption in more strict terms of the writer.

The country has a general deficiency of a strong institutional instruments which has given a leeway to low-risk and high-gain associated with corruption. Rather than seeing the core of the problem as existing at the base of the national triangle, it is at the apex where the elite are amassing common wealth for personal gain at the pain of the general populace.

Influential people gets away with it scot-free. In almost every corruption scandal that is said to have happened it Zimbabwe, political bigwigs and business tycoons are implicated yet no or light legal action is taken against them. This therefore makes the misappropriation of funds in public office a low-risk and high-gain phenomenon, as opposed to a high-risk and low-gain incident.

People who have committed appalling embezzlements of public funds have rather been dismissed from workplaces and completely dodged prison terms. It could be some illumination of justice if such thieves are made to pay back the money rather than let go with impunity which is morally unacceptable.

The politicisation of the economy has disparaged us to mere politicking across the political divide. Those who are fingered in corruption are not the ones who are guilt of gross corruption, but are rather those who have acted in defiance of a partisan system.

We expected some accompanying lawsuits on the sackings of the former Energy Minister, Dzikamai Mavhaire and his Deputy Munacho Mutezo who got fired from cabinet for diverting a US$ 100 000 belonging to Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) towards ZANU PF election campaigns.

It is intuitive that the real matter was not the act, but their factional alignment to Joice Mujuru who had already been labelled a bad apple attempting to subvert a constitutionally-elected government and undermining the authority of the president.

Back to the diamonds in question. Retrospectively speaking, the timeline which diamond money is said to have dodged the fiscus is simultaneous to when Obert Mpofu was the Minister of Mines and Saviour Kasukuwere was the Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment which were both line ministries to foreign mining enterprises. Maybe they too do not know what transpired.

In February 2011 in the fiscal update given by the then Finance Minister Tendai Biti complained that US$ 300 million collected by Zimbabwean Minerals Development Corporation (ZMDC) and the Mineral Marketing Commission of Zimbabwe (MMCZ), two parastatals under the Mines Minister, Obert Mpofu’s remit skipped the state coffers.

Then there is the mysterious whereabouts of a 2.5 million carat stockpile that apparently disappeared following the controversial “Kinshasa Agreement” undertaken by the Kimberley Process on November 2011 as written by Martin and Taylor in their 2012 publication, Reap What You Sow: Greed and Corruption in Zimbabwe’s Marange Diamond Fields.

At least two Kimberly Process sources acknowledged the stockpile predictably priced at approximately US$ 200 million was traded during the embargoed era. Martin and Taylor suggests that the looting of Marange is perhaps the biggest single plunder of diamonds since Cecil John Rhodes.

According to the 2009 Human Rights Watch Report, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) had no legal status to buy diamonds until the end of January 2009, but however under the governorship of Gideon Gono has been a major buyer of illegal diamonds from Marange since as early as 2006. In so doing, it violated the Precious Stones Trade Act by buying diamonds from unlicensed artisanal miners and other illegal sources.

Partnership Africa Canada in 2009 revealed that, Zimbabwe’s diamond industry was out of control. It is purportedly said, William Nhara the Principal Director of Zimbabwe’s Ministry without Portfolio, was arrested at Harare International Airport on March 1, 2007 along with his nephew and a Lebanese accomplice identified as Carole Georges El Martni, and charged with illegal possession of diamonds and attempted bribery.

Nhara allegedly tried to bribe a police officer with US$ 700 to avoid arrest. They were said to be in possession of diamonds weighing 10 700 carats. Given the extent of the well-publicized corruption in Zimbabwe, it’s not shocking that the country ranked 134 out of 178 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010.

Zimbabwe fell into the “Highly Corrupt” category, which it shared on a parallel ranking with countries like Nigeria and Sierra Leone as reported by Diamond Certification Laboratory of Australia in 2011. With such a rot prevailing at the apex, it did not take time for the bribery mentality to trickle down to the grassroots to the extent that fraud, extortion and bribes are haunting every part of the society in the contemporary Zimbabwe.

The Marange Diamond media reportage has not told us all, however I have one said this and I will reiterate it. Zimbabwe’s solutions lies within the context of Zimbabwean thought. All we need is the political will to reform economically, and wait for nothing, but to reform right there. There is no explanation for making a Zimbabwe of 14 million beggars and 14 millionaires. We either reform now or never!

Takudzwanashe Mundenga is an independent academic researcher, political and social analyst. For comments and feedback please feel free to reach him at mundengatakudzwanashe@gmail.com