Mugabe must revisit diamond industry

HARARE - As Zimbabwe’s economy continues to suffer and cash shortages escalate to alarming levels, President Robert Mugabe must move swiftly to save the diamond industry, which was for long a source of cash for the economy before government decided to forcibly nationalise the industry.

It is a fact that since the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) took over from Marange Resources, Mbada Diamonds, Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Jinan and Kusena in Chiadzwa in February 2016, cash shortages worsened mainly because ZCDC, by government’s admission, has failed to produce enough diamonds to satisfy the nation’s cash needs.

Mines minister Walter Chidakwa, who has steadfastly stood by the controversial decision to nationalise the diamond firms, must be held accountable for the mess the industry finds itself in.

Recently, we carried a story in which it was revealed that before the seizure of the mining firms, the country used to sell 500 000 carats a month raising at the very minimum $25 million cash per month.

All this is now history as production has gone down dramatically with the Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa recently confirming that ZCDC had failed to produce enough diamonds as expected.

If government and Mugabe in particular are serious about economic turnaround and if they want to ease cash shortages, it is imperative that they fix the diamond industry first.

ZCDC was expected to be the game changer in Chiadzwa after government did not renew licences of former miners on the basis that they were producing way below projections with Chidakwa claiming that the new government-owned firm would produce far more.

But in shocking developments last year, ZCDC produced a paltry 924 388 carats of diamonds, 62 percent lower than the 3,2 million carats produced the previous year by the ousted Chiadzwa miners. 

This 924 388 carats were produced by the ousted diamond miners in just two months — so who is fooling who here?

Chinamasa in admitting failure by ZCDC at a business meeting in Mutare recently said: “As of now, the diamond sector is dead. I used to visit Mutare during the hype of diamond mining and one could feel the diamond money. We need to come back to that situation again.”

An admission of failure by the minister means that Mugabe must intervene and call Chidakwa to order.

It is now clear that the Chiadzwa mines were grabbed not necessarily to improve productivity in the industry but for other reasons which are not business.

This is surely clear mismanagement of the economy and dereliction of duty and should be corrected.

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