via Zanu PF mafia looting diamonds: Gonese 24 June 2014
THE ruling Zanu PF party should stop running Zimbabwe’s lucrative diamond sector like a mafia where everyone involved in the management of the gems is a thief, an opposition MP has said.
Innocent Gonese, who is the MDC-T MP for Mutare Central constituency, was speaking at a public forum organised by the Southern African Political and Economic Series (SAPES Trust) in Mutare recently.
Gonese said Zanu PF should take a cue from neighbouring countries such as Botswana and Angola which have successfully used natural resources such as diamonds and oil to empower their citizens.
The discussion was based on the theme: Demand for Accountability in the Extractive Sector.
“Botswana has diamonds and they have foreign currency reserves in abundance. Angola has oil and its citizenry has benefitted from the resource,” Gonese said.
“Dubai has built its economy to become a major economy from oil but in Zimbabwe there is lack of transparency and accountability in the extractive sector. The diamonds are gone but people are still poor.”
President Robert Mugabe’s government should have put in place a clear policy to empower citizens as soon as diamonds were discovered in Chiadzwa, said the legislator, adding that levels of corruption had reached pandemic levels with the country’s political leadership ignoring the crisis.
“We have people who have perfected corruption into an art. The leadership is not doing anything to deal with the culprits.
“There has been opaqueness on the issuance of licences to operators in Marange. There should be transparency on how the government issues out licences to investors in the extractive sector.”
The MP said Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa was now singing from the same hymnbook as his predecessor, Tendai Biti, and complaining that diamond companies were not remitting funds to treasury.
“Even Chinamasa is singing from the same hymnbook as former finance minister Tendai Biti that most companies are not remitting anything. The discrepancies on the remittances shows that the firms are not telling the truth,” said Gonese.
Leakages and lack of accountability in the diamond sector had also made some individuals filthy rich overnight.
“Most of the companies such as the defunct Canadile and Core Mining did not have the $100 million capital as required by the law.
“They misrepresented themselves and they did not inject any capital. There was no proof that they had the capacity to raise such an amount. They were just milking our resources.”
Diamond mining companies also had an obligation to ensure that villagers affected by their activities were adequately compensated.
“Villagers are wallowing in abject poverty. There were no proper agreements on the issue of compensation. We should desist from gentlemen’s agreements and put in place appropriate laws and policies that make companies accountable,” said Gonese.
“There should be clarity on the issue of contribution by companies in extraction. Dialogue and consultation with local people is vital so that they have a meaningful contribution to the development of the sector.”
Zanu PF sympathisers who attended the discussion said people should stop accusing their party of looting diamonds but should instead lay the blame squarely on mining companies such as De Beers.
But Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) chairperson, Shamiso Mtisi, said De Beers was a private company and should never be used as a justification by those who are looting the country’s resources.
“Resources belong to the people. There is nothing criminal in asking for accountability. Transparency can actually serve the best interests of the government because it clears perceptions.
“When a government is not transparent it is acting against its own interests. Mistrust will continue,” said Mtisi.