Booted diamond firms' court action imperils jobs

MUTARE  - Over 1 500 workers who were employed by Mbada Diamonds, Jinan and Anjin remain jobless as Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) fears being held in contempt of court if it employs them before the companies’ court action is finalised.

The firms sued government for breach of contract after government banned gem mining in the east of the country by private players, with the State-owned ZMDC taking over the operations.

This was after Mines minister Walter Chidakwa in February last year ordered nine companies operating in the Marange fields to stop all mining activities and leave immediately because their licences had expired.

Chidakwa told Chiadzwa residents this week that ZCDC could not engage employees under companies currently locked in a legal wrangle with government.

“I can’t employ you because I will be held in contempt of court by Mbada Diamonds as their case is still pending in the courts…

“There is an instruction to start to reemploy all former diamond company employees as they are not the ones in the wrong but their directors,” Chidakwa said.

He said they were also unable to mine in the companies’ concessions until the matter is concluded.

“DMC (Diamond Mining Company) offered government to take over their mines, the same we did with the Russians. But Mbada, Anjin and Jinan decided to go to court. Our hope is that the end of their cases will allow us to mine in their concessions,” Chidakwa said.

He said Harare’s decision was not negotiable.

“I knew that once I said stop mining it would cost our people — over 3 000 people jobs, it was a sacrifice worth taking,” the minister said.

President Robert Mugabe has claimed that diamonds worth more than $15 billion were looted in the eastern mining area of Marange.

Speaking in a 92nd birthday interview on State-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation TV, Mugabe said Treasury received less than $2 billion.

Chidakwa has previously stated that the amount which reached the public purse was $600 million.

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