ZIMBABWE – In 2006, former Botswana president Festus Mogae said emphatically that, every diamond purchase in the country represents food on the table; better living conditions; better healthcare; safe drinking water; more roads to connect remote communities and much more. In other words, the former Batswana leader was trying to emphasise that diamonds are a source of revenue for significant economic development.
In Botswana’s case diamonds have solely been an agent of economic stability and growth. Other countries such as Namibia and South Africa have also reaped some economic benefits because of the mineral’s revenue.
However it’s a different case in Zimbabwe. Diamonds were touted as the game changer in an economy which had been ravaged by hyperinflation. But six years after Government brought order into the sector by partnering different companies, Chiadzwa risks chaos unless Government moves with speed.
Mutare, the closest was neither a hive of activity nor did it benefit in one form or the other besides being a point of transit or stopover for people driving towards the fields.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Dr John Mangudya and Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa have on different occasions expressed their reservation about the diamond mining sector.
The reality is that the resource could have done more for the generality of the people notwithstanding its potential to uplift the population. Government has finally acted on this reality by creating a consolidated company.
Consolidating the mining firms while the Government retains controlling interest in the merged entity is the right way to ensure accountability and positive contribution to the economy.
However, there are risks that if the consolidation is not properly implemented then the country will sing the same story of “revenue that never was” even a decade from now.
There is need for meticulous planning and diligent execution of the adopted strategy during the transition to the consolidated structure.
Reports from yesterday said looters and illegal panners had set up camp just after the Minister of Mines gave an order for miners in the Chiadzwa area to vacate within 90 days.
There is need to urgently come up with effective interventions to rein in chaos ignited by order for the miners to immediately stop operations and three months to vacate.
Chiadzwa never quite drifted from the memories and desires of greedy opportunists and criminal elements who benefited from the chaos of the years gone by when the diamond fields were invaded.
It is not a secret that what transpired during that period damaged the country’s image and created avenues for the imperialists to push their agenda through false claims of human rights abuse and alleged rampant trading in blood diamonds.
We remember, vividly, that it took a lot of effort and resources from the Government and solidarity by Zimbabwe’s progressive friends globally to fight the unsolicited negative attention and western media onslaught, such that we should not invite this upon ourselves again at the time when Zimbabwe has more pressing issues.
As a result of the grave tragedies of illegal trade in diamonds, the world has steps to eliminate illicit trade in the stones.
The United Nations has placed embargos on conflict diamonds, a tag Zimbabwe’s enemies can easily place on the country if the situation in Chiadzwa is allowed to spiral out of control.
There has also been the introduction of the Kimberley Process, which Zimbabwe fought tooth and nail in order to secure after spirited campaigns by the country’s western detractors to ban trade of local gems.
The United States is currently working on legislation for the Clean Diamond Act.
This act would ban any diamonds that come from an unknown origin.
Both the Clean Diamond Act and the Kimberly process are an attempt to create a diamond paper trail and to eliminate conflict diamonds from the diamond markets.
It is against this background that Government and all responsible authorities must do all in their might to ensure that no room is left for Zimbabwe’s diamonds to be labelled conflict diamonds.
To this end we salute Government’s swift response in despatching a ministerial team and deploying police to keep out invaders.