HARARE – Parliament has summoned Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu and other high-ranking bureaucrats who served under former president Robert Mugabe’s administration as the legislative assembly continues to seek answers to the controversy surrounding the missing diamond revenue estimated at a staggering $15 billion.
The Daily News can report that Mpofu, who was the minister of Mines and Mining Development from February 2009 to September 2014, will appear before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines and Energy, chaired by independent legislator for Norton, Temba Mliswa, on Monday.
Also scheduled to appear before the same committee is Mpofu’s successor Walter Chidakwa who served in the same portfolio between September 2014 and November 2017, along with former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo and ex-commissioner-general of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Augustine Chihuri.
Mliswa confirmed yesterday that Mpofu, along with Chidakwa, Chihuri and Chombo would give evidence on Monday.
“We have invited the minister to come on Monday to appear before the committee to give an insight into what could have transpired not only regarding the missing $15 billion but also to explain issues around how licences were given to mining companies and what the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC)’s role was in all this,” said the independent legislator for Norton constituency.
“After him, Chidakwa will also appear along with (officials from) the diamond mines (that operated in Chiadzwa) and people such as Ignatius Chombo and others, including Chihuri whose names have been mentioned regarding diamond money,” he added.
“There are many people who were involved in diamond mining and the responsible ministers during this time were Mpofu and Chidakwa . . . and they should be able to help shed light on the diamond operations,” Mliswa said.
In 2016, Mugabe made startling claims that his government could not account for a jaw-dropping $15 billion lost through nefarious activities by players involved in the extraction of the gems in Chiadzwa.
“We’ve not received much from the diamond industry at all. I don’t think we’ve exceeded $2 billion, yet we think more than $15 billion has been earned,” Mugabe told the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation television on the occasion of his 92nd birthday.
Long before Mugabe had made the claims, an international diamond watchdog campaigning against blood diamonds had released a damning report in 2012 alleging that more than $2 billion worth of diamonds had been salted away from the Chiadzwa fields.
Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) also claimed that Mugabe’s inner circle, together with some international dealers and a large network of criminals, had connived in “the biggest single plunder of diamonds the world has seen since Cecil Rhodes”.
“Marange’s potential has been overshadowed by violence, smuggling, corruption and most of all, lost opportunity.
“The scale of illegality is mind-blowing and has spread to compromise most of the diamond markets of the world,” PAC alleged in its report titled: “Reap What You Sow — Greed and Corruption in Zimbabwe’s Marange Diamond Fields”.
The fields in Chiadzwa or Marange are considered to be one of the world’s biggest deposits of diamonds.
They are located in Manicaland Province, a few kilometres outside the mountainous City of Mutare.
While the gems were discovered decades ago, a diamond rush only ensued in 2006, resulting in Mugabe’s government deploying the military to restore order.
There were reports that several lives were lost during clashes between the army and diamond panners.
At the height of organised mining in Marange, Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Kusena and Gye Nyame were some of the companies that were involved in the extraction of the gems in conjunction with ZMDC.
These were later forced to vacate the diamond fields after their licences had expired.
Some of the companies took their cases to the courts while the rest were collapsed into the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company, owned by government.
During a recent debate in the National Assembly on the National Budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa dismissed Mugabe’s claims saying it was impossible that Zimbabwe could claim to have lost $15 billion when the whole world’s diamond sector produces $15 billion worth of diamonds annually, with Africa’s biggest diamond producer, Botswana, producing about $2 billion worth of the gems annually.
As far as he was concerned, Mugabe spoke “figuratively” and any analytical or scientific mind should have dismissed his claims as a non-issue.
Earlier, presidential spokesperson George Charamba had heaped the blame on the media for not appreciating the “metaphor” used by Mugabe to express his disgust at the
opaque nature of diamond operations in Chiadzwa.
Despite spirited attempts by government bureaucrats to dismiss claims that Zimbabwe lost $15 billion worth of diamond revenue through underhand deals, Parliament is not giving up on its attempts to get to the bottom of the matter.
The planned appearances before Parliament of Mpofu, Chihuri, Chombo and Chidakwa come as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is upping the ante in its fight against corruption.
In December last year, Mnangagwa gave a three-month moratorium to those who externalised funds and assets to bring them back into the country or face prosecution.
Many however, doubt if the new administration has the political will to follow through leads relating to the leakages blamed for the missing diamond revenue.
These fears seemed to have been confirmed by Chinamasa when he ruled out that $15 billion could have slipped through government’s fingers, suggesting Mugabe could have mentioned the figure as part of figurative speech.
One of Mugabe’s closest allies, former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo sarcastically applauded Mnangagwa’s pledge to fight corruption as a good start but went on to encourage him and his deputy (Retired) General Constantino Chiwenga to return the missing $15 billion from China.
Posting on his micro blogging Twitter account Moyo said, “Good start indeed. So let him & Chiwenga lead by example by returning the $15 billion from China!”