Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has said Zimbabwe did not lose $15 billion in diamond revenue as claimed by President Robert Mugabe.
Chinamasa, a long-time ally of Mugabe whose tenure at the country’s Treasury has been full of turmoil, told the BBC this week that it was not money missing or stolen but an economic loss due to undervaluing and mispricing.
“You are wrong to ascribe it — the looted $15 billion — to bad management. Over the years, there has been an economic loss arising from trade mispricing. You put it differently, you say looting but I would rather put it as mispricing,” he said.
The Zanu PF legislator’s statement is a testimony to the analysis by Daily News that the data presented to Mugabe was fudged by those who misrepresented the figures so that they influence the diamond mines takeover for their personal benefit to the detriment of the country.
As per Daily News research, Zimbabwe needs to have produced 49 million carats a year to generate $15 billion yet the top five diamond producing countries in the world are nowhere near that.
For instance, Botswana, one of world’s largest gem producers mined 23 million carats in 2013 according to data from the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme.
Zimbabwe, specifically Mines minister Walter Chidakwa controversially nationalised six diamond firms in Marange and formed the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company(ZCDC) and since then, the country has been facing acute shortages of cash while experiencing serious liquidity problems.
“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 …
“Lots of smuggling and swindling has taken place and the companies that have been mining, I want to say, robbed us of our wealth,” Mugabe said in February justifying the state’s nationalisation of diamond firms.
However, latest figures show that ZCDC, which is under spotlight for operating illegally without an Act of Parliament, is under-performing and has proved to be a monumental disaster after producing a paltry 71 000 carats in June that generated less than $1 million in revenue.
Out of this $1 million, the government will get a sickly $200 000 for the 20,875 percent total remittances from the sale of diamonds, a situation that has seen Treasury failing to pay civil servants on time.
Economic experts said Chidakwa’s move to shut down diamond firms was diabolical as it not only worsened the country’s unemployment rate — hovering over 90 percent — but also caused suffering to the majority of former mine workers.
“This is what you get when you maliciously do things. We are killing the country through mindless policies, honestly how do you brazenly stop a working system?
“Was there no better way to improve diamond production than to form a non-performing company?” queried a senior Finance ministry official.
“We expected some of the proceeds from the June tender to assist us in paying the staggered civil servants’ salaries, but it looks like someone lied to the nation,” the official added.
This was after Chidakwa made predictions in March that ZCDC would be selling 500 000 carats every month earning the country an average of $30 million.
Centre for Natural Resource Governance director Farai Maguwu said ZCDC was built on lies meant to line pockets of a few individuals.
“My take is that government is taking the nation for a ride. The promise of $30 million was meant to justify the takeover of Marange by a new group of looters led by officials in the Mines ministry, who are saying it’s our turn…,” he said.
“The way ZCDC was set up clearly shows it was meant to continue with the opaqueness of its predecessors with no transparency in appointment of ZCDC staff and board,” Maguwu added.