ZIMBABWE – Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who was in Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity (GNU), says he furnished President Robert Mugabe with all details that diamond revenue from Marange in Manicaland province was being looted but he refused to act.
The GNU was a coalition government between three major political parties in Zimbabwe formed on February 13th, 2000, after the signing of a Global Political Agreement.
The need for a coalition government arose after the 2008 parliamentary as well as presidential elections which were marred with
violence and human rights violations.
In a belated 92nd birthday exclusive interview on state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday, Mr. Mugabe said
the state treasury received less than $2 billion from the controversial diamond fields.
The president said, “We have not received much from the diamond industry at all. I don’t think we have exceeded $2 billion, yet we think more than $15 billion has been earned.”
But Biti dismissed Mr. Mugabe’s remarks saying, “These are words and sound bites of a hypocrite and a dishonest person.
“When I was in government I gave him the figures. I gave him the statistics. I gave him the secret reports produced in Brussels. I gave him the secret report produced by Kimberley Process … and the reports showed that diamond mines were producing over US$2 billion per year but we were getting nothing.”
Biti said Mr. Mugabe was dismissive when he approached him with the evidence of looting. “No one supported me. The reason was very simple.
Zanu-PF took a deliberate decision that the diamond companies would not give money to treasury for fear that an MDC (opposition Movement for Democratic Change and coalition partner) minister would perform and make difference. And we also knew that these diamond companies were paying rent to private individuals. And one of the things Mugabe used to say to me was, why go after diamonds, how about platinum …”
In 2013, the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) projected that the Marange diamond fields would produce 16,9 million carats, making the project “the single largest in the world in terms of carats produced annually.”
In 2012, Partnership Africa Canada, a member of the Kimberley Process charged that at least US$2 billion worth of diamonds had been stolen from Zimbabwe’s eastern diamond fields and had enriched President Mugabe’s inner circle, international gem dealers and criminals.
Zimbabwe’s Marange fields have seen “the biggest plunder of diamonds since Cecil Rhodes,” the colonial magnate who exploited South Africa’s Kimberley diamonds a century ago, Partnership Africa Canada said then.
But then Mines Minister Obert Mpofu dismissed the report. Mpofu told the Voice of America that the report was “nonsensical” and the work of detractors.
“The first thing about detractors is … Who do they want to please by raising issues which are only nonsensical? They always run around to do those things. This is sponsored by their governments who imposed sanctions on us. It is real a desperate attempt by people who are criminals just to create a smokescreen.”
Biti said in his 2012 budget he had been promised $600 million in diamond revenue for the national treasury to help re-finance crumbling health, education and other public services, but only one-fourth of that pledge was received.