Zimbabwe diamond cash stash for elections

2012-02-15 16:47

Harare - A group monitoring blood diamonds said on Wednesday that mining officials loyal to the authoritarian president are stashing profits from Zimbabwe's diamond fields, and cited fears the money could be used for political violence ahead of proposed elections.

Global Witness said in a report circulated on Wednesday that its investigations show unspecified amounts of diamond earnings are being hidden in the tax-free havens of Mauritius, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.

The mining executives include retired and serving police and military officers, the group said, raising fears the money could be used to finance violence and intimidation.

"If the next election is accompanied by violence there is a real risk that any bloodshed will be funded by diamond revenue," said Nick Donovan, a senior researcher for Global Witness.

The group said diamond money is "desperately needed" to rebuild the shattered economy and should not be used as an "off-budget cash cow" for loyalists of President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe's party has denied hoarding diamond earnings.

Mugabe has called for elections this year to end a fragile three-year coalition with the former opposition of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The coalition was formed after disputed and violence-plagued elections in 2008. Independent rights groups blamed the violence on the police and military and Mugabe party militants.

Mugabe's mines ministry denies any wrongdoing in diamond fields that have been mired in allegations of corruption, killings and human rights violations.

Rampant abuse

Global Witness last year pulled out of the Kimberley Process, the world diamond control body, saying the body approved Zimbabwe's diamond sales without doing enough to stop abuses in the diamond industry and revenue leaks that went unaccounted for.

The finance ministry, controlled by Tsvangirai's party under the power-sharing agreement, says this year the treasury has been promised $600m from diamonds, seen as way below the potential income.

Government employees have mounted a series of strikes so far this year over pay demands that Tsvangirai's party insists can only be met by improved payments into state coffers from diamond revenues.

Since the military took control of the fields in 2008, using troops and helicopter gunships to remove villagers and small-scale miners, Zimbabweans with diamond interests have bought luxury cars and opulent homes.

Rights groups say at least 200 people died and many others were wounded in operations to seal off the diamond fields.

Since then, Global Witness said on Wednesday, diamond concessions have been allocated to several companies linked to Mugabe's party under "questionable circumstances".

"Secrecy jurisdictions" in tax havens shielded the companies from exposure for corruption, tax avoidance and spending in Zimbabwe outside the national budget, the group said.

The board of the Chinese mining and construction company Anjin in the eastern Marange district included senior police, military and defence ministry officials, the report said.

A close Mugabe ally and former top air force officer was given a 25% stake in one of the largest diamond firms, Mbada Diamonds, that operated in eastern Zimbabwe behind a "complex and opaque company structure" and, like the Chinese company, was not audited to show who benefited from diamond sales.

Global Witness called on the world diamond industry to urgently implement a system of "supply chain due diligence" to assure diamond-buyers that they are not funding human rights abuses.

  • jack.oosthuysen - 2012-02-15 17:39

    It is said that a diamond is hard but I think Mugabe hard ass beats it. We know now why Limpopo is regarded as the most corrupt province with neighbours Zimbabwe, how else.

      Francois - 2012-02-15 21:41

      I think News24 must stop reporting on Zim and we must make the border real safe and get all the Zimmers back there and let them sort out there own troubles. If Zimbabweans know that they will be persecuted in election violence, why don't they do anything about it and that on such a scale that will force the world to intervene. It is much easier for them to walk over the border and let others worry about there problems. Off course Mbeki and Zuma have a case to answer, but they never will. Mbeki is quiet on Zim for the past 9 years at least and the problem is too complex for Zuma to understand. Maybe there is an alternative, freeze all Zim's and Zim's peoples assets overseas, dont wire one penny there to ensure that once the ammo is shot, it is shot.

  • Xavier7034 - 2012-02-15 17:58

    Let us not even start talking about the UNMINED Platinum reserves that Mugabe has pledged to the Chinese in return for "favours" - the Zimbabwe government has been frantically trying to seize foreign-owned mining companies under the guise of indigenisation and empowerment, but mysteriously, it has failed to mine rich platinum deposits given back to it by Zimplats. Meantime, the government has even sold off some of its platinum reserves to dubious speculators in shady deals.

  • sandy.langenstrass - 2012-02-15 18:08

    Watch this idiot who has destroyed his beautiful country, that once was rich and prosperous...just watch MUGABE...the actions he has carried out, ....they are the same that Malema intents to copy(from stupid "Bob") If Mugabe's method of driving out the whites, and his hatred for whites and the British worked for his country....may I ask...why is almost half of the Zimbabwe nation living in South Africa.

  • sandy.langenstrass - 2012-02-15 19:18

    Where is the common sence of Malema that can visibly see how Mugabe carried out land grabs..and took the mines, and the results of it never inriched the Zimbabwians, all it did was to inrich "Bob's" life. Well, I in my own way have tried on my keyboard to point out the danger of Malema who is so defiant and wilful who will, like "Bob" destoy our country....but you can take a horse to water, but you can'nt make it drink. So be it.

  • Derrick Chikanga - 2012-02-15 19:32

    These Global Witness guys have energy to focus on something that's really none of their business. One wonders why all this enthusiasm and interest in domestic mineral resources that belong to Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans. This actually raised questions about why they are showing so much interest and who they are doing all this research for since they are nologer part of the Kimberly Process.

      Francois - 2012-02-15 23:51

      Derrick, I suppose from your comment that you are from Zim and probably support Zanu PF - good for you! Can we all advocate that the west and all their trade partners just leave Zim alone, don't buy a diamond, an ounce of platinum, a lump of chrome, a leave of tobacco. Zim wants to do it alone, let them. We just need to see that the place is properly fenced off and see to it that all Zimmers return. SA will struggle a bit because unemployment will come down so fast that even Cosatu workers will have to start working, but let us get is done and over with. Isolate Zim, nothing goes in and nothing comes out - that is what they want - give it to them. Then, may the Lord have mercy on all of them.

  • William - 2012-02-16 08:35

    I agree Francois, this issue has been going on to long and it is time to change the record. Unfortunately Zimbo's are too peace loving to stage a violent revolution like we have seen in the 'Arab spring' uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria etc. The sad fact is that the MDC are a very weak opposition and this unity government is a joke as ZANU PF does exactly what they please with Mubabe still running the show. It of course does not help that the ANC are TERRIFIED of utterring any strong words to Mugabe for fear of harming there long standing relationship during the liberation struggle. Mugabe please die, so that Zim can move forward once again!!!

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