MINES minister Walter Chidhakwa is under pressure to deliver meaningful financial returns from the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) amid reports of a dramatic plunge in production and revenue.
Elias Mambo/Obey Manayiti
This comes in the backdrop of this week’s visit to Chiadzwa by the Mines ministry permanent secretary Francis Gudyanga and the newly-appointed ZCDC chief executive Morris Mpofu to access the situation at the diamond fields.
The visit also comes at a time when illegal diamond miners are invading Chiadzwa every day as the ZCDC security, either has no capacity to stop them, or is already collaborating with them to share the proceeds.
Mpofu was appointed last week after the ZCDC fired its acting CE Ridge Nyashanu, whom the company blames for the dramatic fall in production, as well as revenue.
Nyashanu was dismissed last Wednesday after an internal report showing he was responsible for the plunge in the fortunes of the state-run diamond miner.
A few months ago, another CE Mark Mabhudhu, was fired at the ZCDC in unclear circumstances.
The ZCDC, an amalgamation of Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company, Gye Nyame, Kusena and Rera Diamonds, was formed last year after government refused to renew mining licences of companies that were operating in Chiadzwa. Some of the, companies, including Mbada Diamonds, Anjin and Jinan, are still contesting the decision.
Upon then, the ZCDC had an ambitious target of an average 500 000 carats every month, worth between US$25 million and US$30 million.
Since then, the ZCDC has been accused of lax security, where illegal panners, working in cahoots with law enforcers, have been illegally gaining access to the diamond fields, prejudicing the company millions of dollars. Sources say illegal diamond miners are now finding their way back into the diamond fields since government stopped seven diamond miners from operating last year in February.
“There is a return to illegal mining because every day more and more people are finding their way into the diamond fields,” said a source.
“The government security system is also collaborating with illegal miners who are asked between US$200-800 so that they mine for a certain number of hours and share the proceeds.”
Centre for Natural Resource Governance director Farai Maguwu said up to 1 000 panners enter the diamonds fields daily.
“What happened is that when government stopped the seven companies from mining and introduced ZCDC, the company had no capacity whatsoever to mine. For the first few months they were processing residual ore from Mbada Diamonds,” he said.
“The final straw was when Mbada Diamonds’ equipment was auctioned and their security had nothing more to do thereafter, creating a free-for-all situation.
That resulted in the increase of syndicates organised by some elements of the police and the army. Of late, about 1 000 panners enter the diamond fields per night, with the full blessings of law enforcers. Government is just not willing to do the right thing now. They should acknowledge artisanal miners and then regulate them.
“As it stands there are about 100 foreign buyers in Mutare and they take the diamonds to their countries. Who benefits then? Zimbabwe is not benefitting and that is why there is need to establish order, but they need to make sure they don’t kill people like they did in 2008.”
Marange Development Trust leader Malvern Mudiwa also confirmed the crisis in Chiadzwa.
“There are syndicates between illegal planners and security guards manning the fields. Illegal buyers form syndicates as well and pay to have their panners enter the diamond fields. Over a 1 000 panners invade the fields almost every night. Buyers are spotted driving top-of-the-range all-terrain vehicles, and small trucks then carry diamond ore, passing through security checkpoints without being stopped,” he said.