'Sanctions' hurting us: Diamond miners

VICTORIA FALLS - Zimbabwean gem miners Mbada Diamonds (Mbada) and Anjin have railed at the West, saying its restrictive measures against President Robert Mugabe’s inner cabal were hurting capital inflows into the country.

In separate addresses to a tripartite diamond conference here, Mbada chairperson Robert Mhlanga and his Anjin counterpart Munyaradzi Machacha said the asset, and travel ban had rendered the procurement of equipment and technology impossible.

While the companies have invested millions into the community to a point of “eclipsing” any other mining social responsibility programme, they remain hampered by the 2003 Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofac) sanctions’ regime.

“The corporate has managed to contribute in 18 months what the cumulative Zimbabwe mining sector has not been able to proffer since 1980,” Mhlanga said.

“Notwithstanding these great strides, it is a travesty of justice that Mbada Diamonds is placed under sanctions and prohibited from commercial independence, and free interface in the global diamond industry. We cannot trade our diamonds freely,” he said, adding they were facing “extreme difficulty in moving funds, obtaining favourable prices and accessing clients”.

Machacha, on the other hand, blamed some civil sector organisations for “spreading malicious allegations and circulating junk mail” about their operations.

“Anjin as… with all companies operating in Chiadzwa has infrastructure… with sufficient capacity to meet world demand for diamonds,” he said.

“However, Zimbabwe’s diamonds presently are fetching the least revenue per carat compared to other countries in the region due to various impediments...

“Illegal sanctions are our biggest challenge,” the former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation senior staffer said, adding they were “depressing prices, denying us revenue and scaring away quality buyers”.

Mhlanga and Machacha’s observations come as Mines minister Obert Mpofu has said close to $30 million worth of diamond revenue, and dividends have been seized under the American regime.

On Monday, President Robert Mugabe told the same summit Zimbabwean diamonds must be treated in a similar fashion — through market access and opportunities — like any other product from across the globe.

Meanwhile, Mbada says it will continue with its “extensive corporate social investment initiatives” beyond education, the million-dollar construction of houses for displaced Chiadzwa villagers, provision of clean water and sporting sponsorships.

In recognition of this, the company has won 10 awards this year alone.

“The corporate is the biggest contributor to the Zimbabwe national fiscus and has undoubtedly made an indelible mark to the liquidity of our nation through royalties, taxes and dividends,” the Mbada boss said.

“We have been privileged enough to be given the mandate to mine these resources and exploit them, but we know we have a responsibility to give back to the communities in which we operate in.”

The company, which claims to be a leader — in many respects — of the Marange diamond mining operations, said it pioneered many of the operational issues which enabled Zimbabwe’s full compliance with the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme in consultation with regional players.

“In recognition of the road that this country has travelled… it is the passion of Mbada… to continue harnessing diamonds for… all facets of the Zimbabwean society and economy.

“As of now, it is evident that diamonds are a major economy-changer for our country and its people, and hence a strategic national undertaking,” Mhlanga said, adding Mbada had “taken it upon itself to be accountable to the people of Zimbabwe”.

“We refuse to believe that the current state is the best that can be achieved by Zimbabwe on the global platform and we believe our country has more to offer from its great vaults of opportunity,” he said, adding it was “imperative for the diamond industry to realise that the success of the global diamond mining industry was inextricably bound to the success of the Marange diamond fields”.

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