On the first day of sales on Wednesday about 900 000 carats were sold for nearly US$72 million.
This was a major development in a country which is basically bankrupt. The country needs every cent it can legitimately gather from everywhere. There are so many issues confronting government and the country which need to be addressed money-wise. The proceeds from diamonds for that reason come in handy.
However, there is a critical need for sustained transparency and accountability in the way the diamonds are sold and the money is used. We know there are some greedy vultures hovering over the Chiadzwa diamond fields and the Treasury, ready to pounce on national resources for self-aggrandisement. There is no doubt that the Chiadzwa diamonds have previously been looted by those who have been minting in that area. The money was salted away to offshore accounts and part of it used to buy expensive cars and build mansions. But we now need to open a new page of transparency and accountability. We need to ensure the money obtained from the diamonds is put to good use. All the money must go to Treasury and be accounted for from that end. There should be no parallel process of selling and accounting for diamond proceeds.
Once the money is in Treasury, it must be used strategically. It is one thing to have money and quite another to know how to use it. We know this from our experiences as individuals and from the way our government has behaved over the years. The temptation in official circles has always been to squander such public funds in buying posh cars and funding endless and mostly useless trips abroad. This deplorable way of using public resources in the midst of poverty and suffering must not be allowed to continue.
Public officials must know and remember that they are there to render public service and not steal from the people. Anybody found with their fingers in the government till must be severely punished. In fact, public officials who amass wealth which they cannot justify must be held to account. In other words, corruption must be dealt with. Most public officials — including ministers — are clearly living beyond their means. They cannot be able to account for their wealth and yet they are allowed to continue business as usual. We have persistent reports that some ministers associated with diamond mining have been on a buying spree. This is what needs to be dealt with. Public officials, including ministers, should not be allowed to be corrupt and flaunt their ill-gotten riches. That encourages corruption to go unchecked everywhere and the damage of that to all facets of society and the economy is serious.
As we sell the Chiadzwa diamonds there is a need for government to draw a priority list of issues which need to be addressed using these and other public funds. The days of just dipping into Treasury to fund government’s wasteful expenditures and other superfluous requirements must be put behind us. We need a responsible and effective government.
Some of the most critical areas which the government must attend to using the diamonds funds include education, health, water, electricity, roads and infrastructure. The money may not be enough but some of these things don’t need too much funding. They need vision, planning and commitment.
With the inflows from diamonds and other minerals, Zimbabwe should be able to slowly but surely move out of the economic rut which President Robert Mugabe and his failed previous regime had dug for the country.
This country is rich. It has more than 40 different minerals (including gold, platinum, chrome and, of course, diamonds), fertile agricultural lands, technology and human capital. So what is lacking? Why is the country so poor and struggling to barely feed itself?
The answer is clear. Just about everybody knows, except perhaps those who are in denial either because they are the causes or part of the problem. We have a crisis of leadership and governance.