'Graft eroded Zim's turnaround chance'

HARARE - The scourge of corruption has destroyed whatever potential the country’s diamonds had in turning around the country’s economy, Zimbabwean entrepreneur and writer Lovemore Kurotwi has said.

Speaking during the launch of his book — The Rise and Fall of Chiadzwa: My Personal Experience — in Harare yesterday Kurotwi, a director of the now defunct Core Mining and Minerals (Canadile), a joint venture with government, said corruption had grown so much that it can be classified as an industry.

“This book goes to some length showing how corruption has derailed what our diamonds could have done in terms of turning around our economy...,” said Kurotwi.

He added that he was also passionate about good corporate governance “ . . . in how we run our businesses both in government and in the private sector”, an issue he raises in the book.

The businessman, who set up the Zimbabwe Diamond Technology Centre (ZDTC) in Mount Hampden, said his book, together with another one published earlier Black Empowerment Versus The Disempowerment of Blacks by Other Blacks, were “a result of the frustration I experienced in trying to do good for this country. I came up with good concepts and initiatives  . . . I  came up with the concept government adopted for Chiadzwa, that is to go 50-50 with foreign investors with capacity, the model which is operating today. Before then, all investors were given — whether diamond or gold — for free.

“Secondly, I . . . defended the country from Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KP) expulsion . . . Diamond is not a replaceable commodity. Any carat you mine it’s gone forever. I proposed to build a diamond city at Hotsprings.

“I suggested in 2009 not to allow investors to build makeshift structures within their concessions. We have almost exhausted our minerals and we have got nothing to show for it. If we had built something, Zimbabwe could today be proud, showcasing what diamonds would have done for the country. Even the locals could have benefitted through employment with the mining companies and downstream activities. Those are some of the things for which I paid dearly.”

On his ZDTC investment, Kurotwi — who has since been acquitted on a $2 billion fraud case — said; “A diamond centre is a centralised place for diamond activities. It houses everyone, including regulators, which is government. In other countries, they have put up these structures, the cutting, polishing, banks and other related activities. We are complaining of transparency, leakages, etc.  . . . Because of our fragmented way of running business, diamonds have now become an empty case at the expense of Zimbabweans yet if Zimbabwe had embraced the concept, by now this country would have been different. It’s a sad story… Today, people are

asking each other where the diamond money went . . . ,” Kurotwi rued.

The destination of revenue from diamonds has been a sticking point since the days of the inclusive government with former Finance minister Tendai Biti complaining that Treasury was not getting any proceeds from the gems.

Current Treasury boss Patrick Chinamasa has also raised the same complaint, an issue President Robert Mugabe himself confirmed when he said $15 billion from diamond operations in Marange could not be accounted for.

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