A second auction of diamonds from Zimbabwe's controversial Marange field was held this past weekend in Harare without public notification, VOA has learned.
Kimberley Process Zimbabwe monitor Abbey Chikane confirmed that he was on hand for the auction at an undisclosed location in Harare. He declined to disclose the quantity of diamonds auctioned to international buyers or the total receipts netted by the sale.
Critics of the government’s management of the Marange field and its diamond output say that the secret sales and withholding of information on receipts is a step backward on transparency.
An August auction of Kimberley certified diamonds from Marange did not live up to expectations as to how much would pour into state coffers. Public statements by officials involved indicated sales of between US$30 and US$56 million – not the bonanza hoped for by many Zimbabweans.
Observers speculated that the government kept this month’s auction secret because it does not want to raise expectations – especially among state workers clamoring for higher pay.
Mines Ministry Permanent Secretary Thankful Msukutwa also confirmed the auction was held. He said officials will not release details because the sales were conducted by private companies. Mbada Diamonds and Canadile Mining, in joint ventures with Harare, refused to comment.
"We will not be releasing the quantity or amount that was generated because these were private sales by private companies," Msukutwa said. "No other country in the world releases their sales figures or quantities. When it comes to the issues of diamonds we must be careful as a country because of the sensitivity of the issues associated with them."
Chikane, though declining to comment further on the sales, said other countries also withhold details as to auctions of diamonds.
Civic activist and Marange diamond field expert Farai Maguwu of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare said that what matters most is for Zimababwe to come up with a Marange development policy that will benefit the country, not just a well-connected elite.