Biti demands 50% diamond revenue

HARARE - Finance minister Tendai Biti says his ministry has crafted a policy compelling diamond miners in Zimbabwe to remit at least 50 percent of their revenue to government.

This comes as concern has been raised over transparency and incommensurate remittance of diamond revenue to Treasury.

He said the funds will be channelled towards boosting economic activity.

Biti — who on several occasions has indicated that Treasury was receiving a pittance from the diamond-rich Chiadzwa and Marange mining operations — said a statutory instrument will sanction government to get at least 50 percent of diamond revenue.

“As minister of Finance at the special request of the principals, and with the able help of the Attorney-General, we have crafted a statutory instrument which is now awaiting Presidential signature,” said Biti.

“We received nothing at all in January from diamonds, nothing at all in February. In March, we received $5 million against a target of $15 million. If Caesar was going to receive what belongs to Caesar, we would be halfway through the elections,” he said, adding that “the current situation was not acceptable”.

Last year, Biti was forced to revise his $4 billion National Budget to $3,4 billion after $600 million expected from diamond sales did not materialise. Only $41,6 million was remitted.

This also comes on the back of massive loopholes being experienced in diamond exploration, mining, transportation, storage, valuation, marketing, beneficiation, value addition, capacity building and security.

Since discovery, diamonds have been a source of constant bickering in the coalition government with Biti and his MDC party claiming proceeds from sale of the gems were being diverted from Treasury.

In March this year diamond exports amounted to $114 million, with Mbada Diamonds contributing $44,7 million followed by Anjin Investments at $30 million while Diamond Mining Corporation came in at $18 million.

Biti said if the money had been channelled to government as is supposed to happen, the country would be able to fund its forthcoming elections and other productive sectors of the economy.

“If Treasury was receiving cash from the sale of diamonds, we should not be begging for cash from donors since we own about 50 percent shares in diamond mines,” he said.

Economic analysts say Zimbabwe’s economic growth continues to be stalled by corruption, a factor undermining the development of most African states.

The Marange fields in the eastern region of the country, which have been exploited in the last six years, are one of the world’s biggest diamond deposits.

Zimbabwe could reportedly produce between 110 million to 160 million carats annually. - John Kachembere

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