Zimbabwe has, over the past few years, been the centre of the discovery of high value minerals such as diamonds that have the capacity to rejuvenate the country’s faltering performance and raise GDP to unprecedented levels. This in turn would help build foreign currency reserves.
It is strange that even after the discovery of diamonds in Zimbabwe, the focus is not how the nation will benefit from the resources, if concerns from the fiscus are anything to go by. Only last week the Zimbabwe Independent reported on concerns that government has only received US$800 000 from the tens of millions of dollars realised from the sale of diamonds. Instead, the focus has been on who will get mining concessions to exploit the glittering stone.
By now, one would have hoped that the government, having realised the impact of the disastrous agrarian reforms on food security and economic performance, would be shifting its focus to the use of diamonds as a major driver of economic recovery.
This has been done with success in countries such as Botswana where the government partnered Debswana in 1969. The government of Botswana owns part of the company and receives part of the profit which it funnels into public programmes. Botswana President Ian Khama reckons government can best utilise natural resources such as diamonds through the use of private company resources. The fight in Zimbabwe is, unfortunately, about the management of private companies, with sections of the government seemingly keen to scuttle progress by frustrating those willing to show the colour of their money. A bleeding economy such as ours can hardly afford the kind of bickering characterising our diamond industry.
By now Zimbabwe should be looking at how it can be involved in other activities such as making jewelry and establishing a trade economy that can continue even after the partnerships. Examples abound in India and Belgium. India exported about $17, 5 billion in cut and polished diamonds last year, ahead of China’s $3 billion. Already, other African countries blessed with the resource are cutting deals with the major players in the industry for the establishment of cutting and polishing facilities.
Trying to reinvent the wheel will not help Zimbabwean officials because there are other countries from which we could learn the mining and beneficiation of the mineral. Zimbabwe’s diamonds should be treated as a national resource whose exploitation is driven by a desire to grow the economy. Those being given concessions should not only have the capacity but clearly state how the fiscus will benefit. It is a shame that national assets are being auctioned, diplomats are walking to work and civil servants are getting starvation wages. Is that how things should be?