Mbeki warns govt against diamonds looting

HARARE - Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, credited with brokering Zimbabwe’s coalition government, has called for stricter measures to combat corruption in the mining and trade of diamonds.

He was addressing delegates who included President Robert Mugabe at the recent diamond conference in the resort town of Victoria Falls this week.

“We really hope this natural resource, Zimbabwe’s diamond deposits, will be used genuinely to benefit the masses of the ordinary people.

“This must also mean this country’s (Zimbabwe) political leadership, including all the parties which serve in the current inclusive government established because of the power-sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA), must absolutely ensure the diamond mining industry is not governed by a predatory elite which uses its access to state power to enrich itself, against the interests of the people as a whole, acting in collusion with the mining companies,” Mbeki said.

The former SA leader called for transparency in the handling of diamond proceeds.

“The government must surely do everything possible to ensure the greatest possible transparency about all matters relating to the mining and marketing of diamonds, and the management and use of the resultant financial resources, precisely because the government would have nothing to hide,” said Mbeki.

Mbeki’s comments come at a time when democracy activists and other political leaders in Zimbabwe have
accused the Zanu PF side of government of looting diamonds that could be used to create quasi-military structures before a watershed election next year. Zanu PF denies the charge.

Finance minister Tendai Biti has since revised government budget and growth projections citing non-remittance of diamond revenues to Treasury.

Presenting his Mid-Term Fiscal policy in Parliament, early this year Biti said of the $600 million which was expected from diamond sales this year, only $41,6 million had been received during the first half of the year.

A report by global think tank Partnership Africa Canada (Pac) this week claimed Zanu PF has siphoned diamonds worth over $2 billion from Marange diamond fields to international gem dealers and criminals.

The Pac report, said the plunder of diamonds in the eastern part of the country is “the biggest plunder of diamonds since Cecil Rhodes,” the colonial tycoon who exploited South Africa’s Kimberley diamonds a century ago.

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