'Audit Marange firms before merger'

HARARE - Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa must produce audited reports on the operations of diamond mining companies in Marange before rushing to merge them, civil society pressure groups have said.

In a joint statement yesterday, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD) and Zimbabwe Natural Resource Dialogue Forum (ZNRDF) said they were deeply concerned about the arbitrary decision taken by government.

This comes as Chidhakwa directed the seven diamond mining companies to merge under a two-year phased programme for the State to centralise its oversight on the exploitation of the diamond rich Marange area in Manicaland.

“We are deeply concerned that prior to the merger, government has not instituted independent audits on all operations in Marange where government is a major shareholder,” read the statement.

“Audited reports on Marange diamonds are critical to provide direction to the mergers’ direction if the issues of transparency and accountability are to be of priority to government.”

The civil society organisations said it was in the public interest that an audit be carried out.

“We believe that the diamonds are a finite resource and the resource and the structure of ownership and control in Chiadzwa in its present and envisioned state demands speedy and wise reform,” the statement said.

“This is not only a prudent decision in giving closure to this perennial problem but it is overriding human rights imperatives.”

Since the new proposals have been announced, government has failed to institute comprehensive consultative forums for all stakeholders in which the legitimate submission of the forcible removal and uncompensated peoples of Marange would have been tabled and considered in the proposed new structures.

“The companies have not honoured their pledges and government is complicit in disregarding the legitimate expectations of the people of Chiadzwa,” the civil groups said.

“Nothing in the ongoing reforms spells out progress in addressing the needs of the displaced.”

The civil society groups said it was their desire to have constructive engagement with government.

“Reform in the diamond sector cannot be an event, but should be a well thought-out process, especially in this country and for this community to whom land is central to human and economic security,” they said.

Currently, there are no concrete measures pronounced by government on how the development will address accountability and transparency gaps in resource management across the value chain.

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