When President Robert Mugabe first mentioned the missing $15 billion diamond revenue, a number of schools of thought emerged about what the intended purpose of that disclosure was.
The first school of thought opined that this was nothing more than a casus bellis to close the diamond firms, after they had failed to merge into one as directed by the Mines ministry.
The second school of thought, tied to the first, raised questions of how possible it was for that amount of money to go missing, saying there was no way Zimbabwe could have generated $15 billion from diamond revenue considering the volumes and cost of local gems.
The third and most vociferous school concluded that Mugabe had let the cat out of the bag and should, therefore, fall on his sword, as he had admitted that $15 billion had gone missing under his watch.
It is trite to mention that $15 billion is a lot of money and leaders across the world have resigned for much less.
Whatever Mugabe’s intentions were when he mentioned the missing $15 billion, the reality is the revelation has become a double-edged sword for him and will remain a contentious issue for long.
While the government has all, but shut down all the diamond mining companies, there has been a groundswell of public anger over the missing money, which could have all but improved Zimbabwe’s fortunes overnight, literally.
Comedians, protesters and actors are all having their say about the missing money and they will not go away until they get answers — which may not be forthcoming.
Mugabe inadvertently gave the opposition a rallying point and a campaign issue going into the next elections and the Thursday demonstration by the MDC-T shows that Zanu PF’s adversaries will milk the issue of the missing money for all its worth.
The MDC-T have always been accused of being wafer thin when it comes to campaign issues, relying on the tired “Mugabe must go” slogan, but here Zanu PF have presented them with a perfect gift and even if the 2018 election becomes about a single-issue, the opposition can use the missing $15 billion to punish Mugabe.
We are not saying Mugabe should not have come out clean about the missing money, but as long as no one is arrested, fired or made to account for the $15 billion, then the President may have shot himself in the foot.
The only way Mugabe can salvage this situation is by firing anyone implicated in the scandal and allowing the police to investigate and arrest even his top ministers, anything other than that would be seen as condoning what many already see as grand theft and the rape of the country.