Villagers in Zimbabwe’s diamond-rich Marange communal lands in Manicaland province are bitter at recent revelations by President Robert Mugabe that the country cannot account for diamonds proceeds worth $15 billion mined in the area.
They claim that they have not benefited from the sale of the gems, largely mined by Chinese companies and some linked to Zimbabwe’s security forces.
Thousands of Zimunya and Marange residents told parliament’s Indigenisation Portfolio Committee visiting the region that they are concerned about the alleged looting of the $15 billion as the government and diamond mining companies failed to cater for their needs.
The committee was in Manicaland to find out from villagers and local government structures whether the state and the diamond mining companies had done anything to develop infrastructure in areas where they were moved to pave the way for diamond mining activities.
Each of the five diamond mining companies was expected to contribute $10 million for the development of the community but only two companies - Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources - only contributed $500,000.
Godwin Nemasase told the committee that they were shocked by President Mugabe’s revelation, which came at a time when the diamond mining companies had not contributed anything to develop their areas.
“Parliament must move with times, I believe that parliament was aware of the looting of diamonds and no development took place in this area. Marange people are now worse off than they were before the mining of diamonds started in this area.”
Nemasase, an engineer by profession, said to make matters worse, they have over the years been harassed by members of the Zimbabwe National Army and the police for demanding what they were promised by the diamond mining companies.
Villager Lovemore Mukwada was equally concerned saying more diamonds could actually have been stolen as there was no transparency and accountability in the mining of the gems.
“We want transparency these mining companies never published what they were getting from the sale of diamonds. We were surprised to hear that that $15 billion had gone missing. We believe more could have been stolen. Imagine what the companies themselves took, and what about the panners or illegal miners.”
Local resident, Malvern Mudiwa, who is also a human rights activist, said it was disturbing to hear that diamond proceeds worth $15 billion cannot be accounted for while they are wallowing in poverty.
“… $15 billion stolen, this is unbelievable. This amount is almost five times the annual national budget and how could it be stolen while we are suffering. Surely the investment in diamond mining should have benefitted the locals.”
They lambasted President Mugabe and local lawmaker and Information Minister, Chris Mushowe, for allegedly being dishonest and failing to update them on diamond mining activities in Manicaland province.
They said since diamond mining started in 2009, there was no transparency and accountability in the mining, processing and selling of the gems and as a result local people did not benefit from the sale of the diamonds.
While refusing to comment on President Mugabe’s statements on diamonds, representatives of Mbada and Anjin mining companies said their earnings were less than $2 billion in the last five years.
Mbada financial statements show that the company earned $1.2 billion in the last five years while Anjin netted about $340 million in the same period.
Former Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, and his predecessor, Patrick Chinamasa have complained that the country was not benefitting from the Marange diamonds as there were no reasonable revenue inflows into treasury.
Government has since kicked out all the diamond mining companies and appointed its own company, Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company, to mine the gems in Marange.
The parliamentary committee will compile a report and present it to parliament and government for actioning.