Critics of the Zimbabwean government’s development policy in the controversial Marange diamond field in the east of the country say Harare is heading in the wrong direction on transparency following word that future Marange diamond auctions will be held in secret and with sales figures withheld.
Mines Ministry Permanent Secretary Thankful Msukutwa said this week that for reasons of security and in line with international standards, auction dates would no longer be announced.
"We are the only country in the world that announces what we have [in terms of diamonds for offer) and and what we are going to sell," Musukutwa said. "Besides, there is also the issue of security that has to be taken into account. The security of the monitor has to be addressed.”
The National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations commented that the imposition of a veil of secrecy over the auctions of Marange diamonds would open the door to further abuses, noting that some $30 million from past diamond sales has never been accounted for.
The secret auction policy was announced as Kimberley Process Zimbabwe monitor Abbey Chikane arrived in Harare on Thursday to certify a second batch of diamonds from the field for sale.
The first such auction was held last month at the Harare International Airport.
NANGO Programs Director Machinda Marongwe told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the country cannot afford secrecy when when revenues from previous sales are not made public.
Though the Marange diamond field has been described by experts as very rich, the government has seen scant revenues though it is in theory a partner in joint ventures with mining companies there. The Mines Ministry has frustrated efforts by Parliament to conduct fact-finding missions in Marange.