WHILE parliament is intensely probing the alleged syphoning of US$15 billion in diamond revenues, the person who first spoke about it in public, former president Robert Mugabe, says the figure has no factual basis as it was just an urban legend — an untrue story.
By Hazel Ndebele
In February 2016, Mugabe publicly said the country had lost gems worth US$15 billion through leakages at the Chiadzwa diamond fields, while Treasury received less than US$2 billion in revenue.
“We have not received much from the diamond industry at all. I don’t think we have exceeded US$2 billion, yet we think more than US$15 billion has been earned,” Mugabe said during his 92nd birthday with the state–run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
However, in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent on March 15, when probed about the missing US$15 billion, the former president said: “It was just a figure. I was given that by some officials, that figure had been circulating around, but really it was not confirmed; it was just a story and there was that figure involved.”
The remarks of the lost US$15 billion caused public uproar, with citizens demanding that the matter be investigated, while industry players argued that the country could not have lost US$15 billion in revenues, a figure equal to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Mugabe in 2016 also pointed out that those he had appointed “to be the eyes and ears” of government supervising operations in Chiadzwa had failed in their task.
After Mugabe’s remarks government ordered a forensic audit of the seven diamond companies, although the probe has stalled.
Of late, parliament has been investigating people and companies involved in diamond mining as it seeks to establish whether it was true that US$15 billion was siphoned.
Parliament has suggested it is going to call Mugabe for questioning.
So far the Themba Mliswa-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy, has questioned the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Mbada Diamonds, former Mines ministry officials, including current Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu, former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) boss, Happyton Bonyongwe.
While the military had shares shares in Anjin, they have not been summoned to respond to questions in parliament. Anjin has also not yet been summoned.
It is understood that Anjin did not contribute much to fiscus, while its books remained unaudited.
According to chartered accountant Daniel Ngwira, the belief by many that the country could have lost US$15 billion is mainly due to the lack of transparency around the diamond sector not facts.
Ngwira said indeed a lot of money leaked in revenues, but it is impossible that it reached US$15 billion.
“Contextually, what is US$15 billion worth? It is three times the size of the country’s bank deposits. In the diamond sector, it means the entire annual global output. This amount is worth roughly the world diamond output of around 130 million carats,” Ngwira said.
“While I doubt that US$15 billion in earnings was lost; I believe even the near US$2 billion should have gone a long way in transforming the face of the local communities as has happened in Botswana. The magnitude of the transformation is not only a function of the tenure of mining, but most importantly of governance.”