Several houses in the leafy suburbs of Mutare have reportedly been converted into illegal diamond trading centres by a syndicate of foreigners that is receiving the precious stones from artisanal diamond miners.
Sources say most of the houses have installed sophisticated security cameras to enable the dealers to evade law enforcement agents.
Musikavanhu Constituency Member of Parliament, Mr Prosper Mutseyami, raised the issue of mushrooming illegal diamond trading centres in Mutare before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Mines and Energy last week.
The MP alleged that this is happening in houses located in the plush suburbs of Greenside, Morningside, Palmerstone and Murambi.
“There has been massive mushrooming of diamond trading syndicates in Mutare and there are allegations that most residential houses, especially those in the leafy suburbs of Mutare, have since been converted into illegal diamond trading centres,” said Mr Mutseyami.
Mr Farai Maguwu of the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association, who has appeared before the same committee, concurred with Mr Mutseyami, highlighting that the syndicates mainly comprise of foreign nationals.
Mr Maguwu said Zimbabwe is losing millions of dollars through the operations of these syndicates as they offer low prices to the artisanal miners.
“There are diamond trading syndicates in Mutare, and it has become an issue of concern. As we speak right now, over 60 houses in Mutare have been converted into Illegal diamond buying centres and it started with Greenside, Morningside, Palmerstone, Murambi and Darlington.
“Some of them have actually installed outside security cameras to tell who is coming. There are scores of foreign nationals carrying out illegal diamond trading in Mutare,” Mr Maguwu said.
Although Government moved in to secure the Chiadzwa diamond fields following discovery of alluvial gems and subsequent consolidation of mining operations in the entire sector, which is now under Government’s exclusive control, artisanal miners have continued with their illegal mining activities despite the tight security.
The disturbing revelations come as the mystery over the whereabouts of the revenue earned by seven diamond firms that were extracting diamonds in Chiadzwa remain largely unresolved.
Finance and Economic Planning Minister Patrick Chinamasa told Parliament that Zimbabwe did not lose $15 billion in potential diamond revenue. He argued that rather, former President Robert Mugabe used the amount figuratively.
However, it has been unanimously agreed that the country lost substantial income from the gems.