Chimanikire was addressing small-scale miners in the Matabeleland South provincial capital, Gwanda.
“In terms of who we sell our minerals to, America cannot dictate to us the markets …if they say our diamonds are bloody they can keep their money or go to hell. Zimbabwe has the right to choose its markets,” he said.
Asked by miners whether he was expressing his personal opinion or a government policy, Chimanikire said: “I am a government official and that’s the official position… this is what we call ruling and I repeat America can go to hell.”
This did not go down well with miners who felt that the MDC-T official was behaving like a “little Mugabe”.
Miners said Chimanikire’s comments are misplaced and would only serve to scare away investors.
Earlier on he had told miners that “our country also competes with other countries for foreign direct investment. There is need for attracting investors and for this reason we are vigorously marketing the country.”
Chimanikire is on a familiarisation tour of the Matabeleland region where he is meeting miners.
During the meeting, miners confessed that they are forced to smuggle gold to South Africa due to high taxes levied by Fidelity Printers, an arm of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe which is the official buyer of the precious mineral in the country.
A representative of women miners said: “It will be a difficult task to abandon smuggling and the black market.
“We are into full-time smuggling of gold to South Africa due to the conduct of Fidelity Printers. It takes ages for us to receive our payments once we sell gold to Fidelity Printers, but we receive instant cash from our dealers in South Africa. Therefore we are comfortable with smuggling to South Africa.”
The deputy minister said there was lack of accountability of minerals extracted in the country.
Chimanikire said: “Every gramme or tonne produced should be properly accounted for. Therefore, there is need for dialogue and removal of suspicion on the part of all stakeholders so that the country gets the necessary impetus for its economic recovery.”
On capacity utilisation in the mining sector, Chimanikire said it was still averaging below 40%.
“While production in the mining sector is low, it is further worsened by lack of accountability in production declarations.
“Stakeholders here cannot dispute that there are leakages. In addition some producers, big or small, choose not to remit taxes to fiscus and this is undesirable,” he said.
“Capacity utilisation still remains lower than 40%. Admittedly the mining sector is on its recovery path but its performance still remains below expectation.”
Miners told Chimanikire that random power cuts by Zesa were severely affecting their operations, to which Chimanikire said: “Zesa is a national problem which we have to live with.”