BY TAURAI MANGUDHLA
ZIMBABWE sold diamonds worth US$700 million last year, but foreign currency shortages persist, while a huge financing gap has left public amenities such as hospitals on the brink of collapse, NewsDay has learnt.
In an update last week, Rapaport, a diamond industry tracking survey, said global diamond production recovered to pre-pandemic levels in 2021, with Zimbabwe earning US$670 from the gems.
“Global rough output rose 51% year-on-year to US$13,99 billion, exceeding 2019’s total of US$13,57 billion, according to statistics the Kimberley Process released this week. By volume, production increased 12% to 120 million carats, but trailed the 2019 figure of 138,1 million carats,” Rapaport said.
“The numbers reflect significant growth in Angola and Zimbabwe, two countries that are developing their mining industry at high speed. In 2019, Angola’s production rose 28% to US$1,63 billion, while Zimbabwe’s jumped almost fivefold to $670 million.
“That helped offset the loss of goods from Australia, where production slumped to zero following the 2020 closure of Argyle, previously the world’s biggest source of diamonds by volume.”
The diamond trade was led by State-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), formed in 2015 and has perennially been embroiled in allegations of poor accountability and lack of transparency since then.
According to a Commodity Outlook 2022 report released by the Chamber of Mines in February this year, Zimbabwe’s diamond firms produced an annual output of 4,2 million carats last year.
The report said ZCDC contributed 89%, while 10% came from RioZim’s subsidiary Murowa Diamonds, technically leaving out a mere 1% unaccounted for. However, the foreign currency shortages continue to stalk the country.
Power outages persist, while hospitals are going without drugs and essential equipment.
Civil servants are grossly underpaid, resulting in endless strikes, while infrastructure is decaying with citizens going for weeks without running water in major cities.
The country’s legacy of diamond looting continues to stick out like a sore thumb. In February 2016, the late former President Robert Mugabe made sensational claims that US$15 billion worth of revenues generated by the diamond industry had gone missing.
Diamonds have been a major cash cow for top chefs, with 350 000 carats worth some US$140 million vanishing at the State’s minerals marketer Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe and ZCDC vaults in 2020, according to reports.