Diamonds will fund a power grab by Mugabe

A letter from the diaspora

By Pauline Henson

The Zimbabwe Diamond Conference which began on Monday was sponsored by the Zim government and opened by Robert Mugabe. The intention of the Conference said Mugabe was to “shed light” on the diamond industry and particularly on the question of where all the diamond revenue is going.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe addresses 67th UN General Assembly

Diamonds will fund a power grab by Mugabe

It is not going to the treasury said the Minister of Finance a couple of weeks ago, so if the money is not going to the treasury, where is it going? Gold came into the story too with Mugabe’s move to decriminalise gold panning. The fact is that whether it’s gold or diamonds, the question always comes down to: Where’s the money going?

Money and politics, the two go together and particularly in Zimbabwe. It is Mugabe’s insistence on elections in March that has fuelled all this talk about diamond wealth. The fear has been voiced that diamonds will fund a power grab by Robert Mugabe and his army generals but it was the report by the highly respected Partnership Africa Canada on Monday that really caught everyone’s attention.

The Report spoke of “the biggest plunder of diamonds since Cecil Rhodes” adding that $2 billion was a conservative estimate of the loss to the Zimbabwean state. “Marange’s potential has been over-shadowed by violence, smuggling, corruption and most of all by lost opportunity.

The scale of illegality is mind blowing” the PAC Report commented. And how did Obert Mpofu, himself a man of considerable, unexplained wealth, respond? After some rather rambling remarks about hyenas and transparency, he said it was all the fault of sanctions.

The ‘usual suspect’, ie. the west, has stopped Zimbabwe getting good prices he alleged. A more likely explanation is that Zimbabwe is so broke that she will accept any price however low for her diamonds.

The guest speaker at the Victoria Falls Conference was Thabo Mbeki, a known Zanu PF supporter and he joined in the chorus of anti-west vitriol. It is always a popular line and the African delegates turned their wrath on the American chair of the Kimberley Process and demanded her resignation.

As always in Zimbabwe, determining the truth of all these claims and counter claims is not easy but if it’s evidence you’re looking for, the news that Zimbabwe has already embarked on a project to build a new capital city certainly suggests that the regime is not short of cash – from somewhere.

A new conference hall for Zanu PF is another project that is being funded – from somewhere.

Meantime, the present capital is enduring a water crisis so awful that it is alleged Harare residents are actually drinking re-cycled waste, while the regime has already started work on a new capital, ‘Zvimba City’ in Mugabe’s home province is part of Mugabe’s ‘legacy’ no doubt.

Poor residents of Harare suburbs Rugare and Kambazuma are actually having their property confiscated for non-payment of rates. Wherever the diamond wealth is going, it is certainly not going to enrich the quality of ordinary people’s lives.

Country-wide violence against the MDC continues and the police are still not taking action against known offenders. The arsonists in Mutoko who burned down an MDC supporter’s home have not been arrested and the police have told the victims that it is up to them to bring the suspects to the police station!

Maybe the diamond money would not solve all these problems but it would surely make peoples’ lives more bearable? The Kimberley Process has decreed that Zimbabwe’s diamonds do not qualify as ‘blood diamonds’ but they may well be the cause of bloodshed in the future as the various interested parties fight for the wealth the diamonds generate.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle Pauline Henson

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