via Diamonds: we need to know | The Zimbabwean 29.10.13 by Editor
If it is true that $2 billion worth of gems extracted from the Chiadzwa diamond fields in recent years cannot be traced, and if what Manicaland Provincial Minister Christopher Mushohwe said about the abject poverty still dogging Marange villagers fails to spur a new thinking about the shenanigans in the nascent diamond industry, it is high time someone is called to account.
The diamond fields saga is fast spinning out of control, beyond what authorities are quick to dismiss as civil society rants and opposition quislings. Zimbabwe must do some serious soul searching to get to the root of the problem.
Earlier this year, former Premier Morgan Tsvangirai protested about the unexplained disappearance of $1.9 billion worth of diamond revenues, which Cabinet had been informed were realised from the sale of our gems. Tsvangirai’s concern arose from utterances by the then Minister Obert Mpofu who, instead of explaining why Treasury was starved of this much needed income, complained that the US government had seized $30 million from the diamond sales as part of “sanctions” against Harare.
The murky issue around the disposal of Chiadzwa diamonds refuses to disappear. Mushohwe, a senior Zanu (PF) official, aptly echoed the growing sentiment in Manicaland. “The people in Marange are sleeping without food; their children are not going to school; and there are no clinics; they (the people) sniff dust all the time within the mining area. We need to re-look at ourselves as the people of Zimbabwe and ask (the question) are we really there? Is this a talk show? … It is my hope that we will not die talking about Manicaland as the richest province when in fact our people are the poorest.”
So what is exactly going on around Chiadzwa? Has the discovery of diamonds been a curse or a blessing for Marange, Manicaland, and, indeed, the rest of Zimbabwe?
The central grievance borders around the apparent lack of concern, by either the government or the companies working here, about the welfare, not only for the local peasants, but of the entire nation.
With civil servants earning far below the poverty line, villagers exposed to serious health hazards, grinding poverty and hopelessness; with Mutare’s industrial base and that of the entire country in the intensive care unit; and lack of policy clarity around the future, the time has come for a proper probe into our supposed cash cow, the Chiadzwa diamonds.
Either Parliament must take the initiative or a judicial inquiry must be set up to investigate the industry – the matter is long overdue. Let us take a decisive break from the past and draw an indelible line in the sand against what remains unclear about this important issue.