When will the theft and looting of the Chiadzwa diamond fields end? Zimbabweans are grappling with this important question as we exclusively reveal today that a lockbox containing gem-quality diamonds disappeared from a Mbada Diamonds sort house on the day government announced the closure of Chiadzwa mining activities to pave way for the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company in February last year.
Zimbabwe Independent Comment
Although nobody can conclusively quantify the diamonds in that 30-centimetre by 30-centimetre box, there is every reason to believe that the gems were worth millions, extrapolating from the average monthly production target of 500 000 carats at the time
There are also scandalous reports that, since the end of Mbada operations, illegal panners have breached security to loot more than 150 000 tonnes of diamond ore stockpiles that were ready for processing. We saw this coming. The haphazard manner in which the seven mining companies were arbitrarily evicted from Chiadzwa was always going to be a recipe for disaster.
Apart from the obvious legal repercussions of such a decision, there are serious security ramifications. The Mines ministry was asking for trouble by venturing into such a sensitive zone without making proper security arrangements.
Someone must be held accountable. Between the government officials and the police details who comprised the invading party following the unceremonious eviction of companies, someone must tell the nation what happened to those missing diamonds. A police report was made on February 27 last year. A year later, detectives do not seem to have made any headway into the mystery of the missing diamonds. This is unacceptable. It is worth noting that the special box, which automatically locks after being removed from the X-Ray Transmission machine on the ground in Chiadzwa, can only be opened by another machine located at the sorting room at Harare International Airport.
Sadly, the movie-style theft of diamonds from Chiadzwa is nothing new. President Robert Mugabe himself revealed that gems worth US$15 billion could not be accounted for — and although his figure was clearly overstated — it is indisputable that looting, on a grand scale, did take place and continues to take place.
History will recall that in 2010, a 30kg consignment of diamonds disappeared after being removed from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The diamonds, owned by African Consolidated Resources, were stolen when the company was fighting a legal dispute with the then Mines minister, Obert Mpofu. During the same time, almost two million carats worth over US$80 million mined by Canadile Miners in Chiadzwa during the joint venture between Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and Core Mining and Mineral Resources disappeared as well. The diamonds were allegedly moved from Canadile Miners’ sorting house in Mutare to an unknown destination by ZMDC and Marange Resources employees.
Although corruption is generally endemic in Zimbabwe, the sheer scale of brazen looting in Chiadzwa has placed the country on the international map of kleptocracies. Zairean megalomaniac Mobutu Sese Seko stole an estimated US$4 billion and Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha looted US$5 billion. Zimbabwe could now surpass those figures.