Biti said on Thursday, while presenting a state of the economy update, diamond proceeds have remained a trickle and that was now affecting his US$4 billion national budget which partly depends on a US$600 million contribution from the gems income.
The minister has often complained about diamond revenues, which people suspect are being siphoned off by government officials, in collaboration with those mining in Chiadzwa, including private companies, state entities and security forces.
Biti last week disclosed that Chinese firm Anjin, which mines diamonds in Chiadzwa, has not submitted any revenue to Treasury despite the company being the largest mining entity in the diamond-rich area.
Biti, who has for years now complained about the lack of transparency and accountability at Marange, on Tusesday further stepped up the pressure on President Robert Mugabe, Zanu PF ministers, particularly Mines minister Obert Mpofu, and companies involved there, to explain what is going on.
Speaking at a Centre for Research and Development workshop on Zimbabwe’s diamonds and the Kimberley Process, Biti said so far this year mining companies had exported US$241 million worth of diamonds.
However, Treasury had only received US$34 million, none of which came from Anjin Investments, the main defaulter. Anjin has a shady shareholding structure (controlled by the Chinese and security forces) which does not include the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), the official partner in other deals. ZMDC now operates on its own through its subsidiary, Marange Resources, the successor to Canadile which was a joint venture between the state and Core Mining. The Canadile deal collapsed over allegations of corruption, looting and brazen theft.
“I have got a big bone to chew with all the mines, but particularly with Anjin,” Biti said. “We are not getting anything from Anjin. I am not that much worried about the other companies like Mbada and Marange because those are partly owned by ZMDC and so at least we are getting something from them,” Biti said.
He said unlike other firms mining in Chiadzwa, Anjin was partnered by the military, a situation which he said raises eyebrows. “Anjin is not partnering ZMDC, someone says the army is its partner, but I have raised this with President Mugabe. I am saying what does mining have to do with the army?
“Do we have a parallel government? I think it is totally unacceptable that Anjin does not remit. I am also very angry with Anjin because they are by far the biggest mining company there. Anjin has seven shafts combined, that means they have seven mines in one area,” he said.
There is “opaqueness and unaccountability surrounding our diamonds”. Last year, Biti also raised serious issues with diamond revenues which were not properly accounted for and had a fierce row with Mpofu over the matter which was discussed in cabinet several times. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has also been raising the issues, together with ministers mainly from the MDC parties. Zanu PF ministers are also equally concerned although they can’t voice their worries.
Addressing a parliamentary committee on Monday, Mbada chairperson, Robert Mhlanga, said his company had remitted about US$300 million to government since 2009.
“In total, we have paid a total of US$293,5 million to government and this constitutes nearly 50% of the gross we generate with 26% going to working capital while 24% went to the other shareholder (New Reclamation),” he said.
Now, whichever way you look at it, there is a serious issue here. Compared to what the private companies, which in the first place came through dubious routes, and their shadowy controllers are making, government — and by extension the people — are getting peanuts. It is clear that the country’s diamond revenues are being looted.
If that was not the case, why are responsible authorities unable or unwilling to provide clear answers? Why are they tongue-tied if what they are doing is right? Who is stealing the country’s diamond revenues? Some people, surely, are siphoning and possibly salting away the money to offshore bank accounts. We need answers.