PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has further immersed himself in the ongoing diamonds row by defending controversial mining companies Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Miners which have been accused of involvement in shady deals with government.
Mines minister Obert Mpofu could face contempt of court charges over the diamonds dispute unless he complies with a recent Supreme Court ruling to let certain gem packages be kept by the Reserve Bank.
In a spirited defence of the mining companies’ questionable contracts with government, Mugabe told journalists yesterday at Zimbabwe House in Harare that the tenders were given in a transparent manner.
This is contrary to the views of MPs on the Mines and Energy parliamentary portfolio committee and senior government officials who are querying the opaque handing out of contracts without going to tender.
“Initially we wanted ZMDC (Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation) to go into the area and start doing some mining and tell us what is there,” Mugabe said. “We had a list of companies applying. Finally two of them, Mbada and Canadile, were chosen. They were recommended and I was shown the papers and their proposals. The ministry then decided that for now they were preferable to the rest. We said fine. They are the ones who are there now,” Mugabe said.
While trying to defend the mining companies’ involvement in Chiadzwa diamond operations, Mugabe also admitted that there were problems there.
“(Deputy Prime Minister Arthur) Mutambara’s team visited the area and they are satisfied with the work being done and equipment they have,” he said. “But recently I was dismayed when newspapers published that there were two senior officials of Canadile that were arrested. Diamonds are always an attraction — I don’t know of anyone who will not be tempted,” he said.
Various sources say senior politicians are involved behind the scenes in the Marange diamond mining activities. This has raised reports of corruption and pillaging by senior government officials.
Mugabe said he had personally not seen diamonds from Chiadzwa and would like to catch sight of them.
“Up to now I have not seen a single diamond from Chiadzwa. I am yearning to see diamonds from Chiadzwa. I have seen those from River Ranch. Now that the representative from Kimberley Process (Certification Scheme) is here, we are now going to start selling. There are two million carats now from Chiadzwa. We hope we can start selling and we hope that the yield will be invested and also assist us in raising the standards of living our people,” the president said.
In remarks which could potentially fly in the face of court rulings over the ownership of the Chiazdwa diamond concessions, Mugabe tried to deny that Africa Consolidated Resources (ACR) had any legitimate claim over the gems.
“There is hope with the diamonds. We are trying to be careful about how our diamonds industry should be organised. We had to deal with a situation in Chiadzwa which had become untenable. We had ACR that had acquired a licence in a very dubious manner from some commissioner in Mutare. He had decided on his own to issue a licence. De Beers had hidden from us for 15 years, quietly telling us that they were just testing, trying to evaluate whether there are diamonds or not, ivo vachituta (while they looted). We then discovered that and they abandoned, but they had links with ACR,” Mugabe said.
In the meantime, Mugabe said, the “ordinary people got wind that uku zvamuka (something has come up) and they flocked there in their thousands — lots of diggers.
“On the one hand there was the deal with ACR and on the other thousands of diggers. We then made it a state property. We surveyed the place roughly and we put a fence around it,” he said.