Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, speaking on the margins of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair on Wednesday, deplored corruption and smuggling in the mining sector in what appeared to be a reference to the controversial manner in which the Mines Ministry is developing the Marange diamond field in secrecy amid allegations of asset-looting.
Addressing business executives participating in the fair, Mr. Tsvangirai said corruption was counteracting the government's efforts to revive the economy. He called for greater accountability among businesses.
The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme has urged that the Zimbabwean armed forces leave Marange, but observers say there is still a significant military presence in the district, that diamond smuggling is rife, and that the rights of residents continue to be abused.
A parliamentary committee looking into operations in Marange has been barred from the area by the Ministry of Mines. Under the theme of “Unlocking Our Investment Potential,” the trade showcase will be opened on Friday by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Civic activists and Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change formation have expressed concern at his visit, given Iran’s isolation from most of the Western world which Zimbabwe is now trying to re-engage.
Political analyst Samukele Hadebe told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that corruption is everywhere in the economy, and that government must take drastic measures to curb theft and graft.
Mr. Tsvangirai also took up the chronic deadlock in negotiations over contentious aspects of the Global Political Agreement, saying the extended talks were holding back the economy.
The trade fair opened unofficially Wednesday with a significant increase in international exhibitors – but an alarming decrease in local participants due to the sluggish economy.
Trade fair general manager Daniel Chigaru told VOA Studio 7 reporter Chris Gande that contrary to news reports, the volcanic ash plume that has paralyzed European air travel has not hurt the exhibition.