Tsvangirai slams diamond looting

ZIMBABWE is experiencing a fierce scramble for the country's minerals by top Zanu-PF officials and members of the security forces. There are fears of a systematic looting spree ahead of anticipated elections, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Times, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, who is in a power-sharing arrangement with President Robert Mugabe, said the looting of mainly diamonds and gold was a cause for concern.

"I am aware that a lot of mineral resources are being discovered – gold, coal, diamonds, platinum and others. You hear stories of senior army officials, senior politicians in Zanu-PF scrambling for these resources. This is a challenge to the inclusive government – to make sure there are rules and transparency with regards the exploitation of these resources.

"There must be methods of accountability – this issue of saying we are going to grab as much as we can is going to cause instability in this country. It is disturbing to note that the people who are supposed to protect our mineral resources are at the forefront of looting them.

"What business does the army have in diamonds or gold? We have credible information that there have been discoveries of huge deposits of minerals, even in areas like Filabusi, Tsholotsho and Shurugwi and indeed along the Great Dyke. If there is no accountability we will soon be like the DRC and Sierra Leone.

"You hear stories of them grabbing mineral claims as if it is the last supper. This plunder of resources brings chaos and anarchy to our country and I am going to discuss this with my fellow principals.

”This plunder is going to cause instability and we have to stop it. We have to bring order," said Tsvangirai.

He said he did not understand why the police, the army and some members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) were interested in mining instead of maintaining security.

Mining should be done by mining companies and all proceeds from diamond sales should go through the treasury.

The minerals grab is especially targeted along the Great Dyke belt, which stretches through the centre of the country from the Zambezi Valley to Beitbridge.

The belt is said to contain hundreds of billions of dollars worth of minerals, including diamonds, chrome, gold, platinum and more than 50 other minerals.

The Prime Minister also took a swipe at Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, saying he must come clean on corruption charges levelled against him by local authorities throughout the country, who accuse the wealthy Mugabe ally of illegally acquiring dozens of plots of land from towns and cities.

"There have been reports that have been produced by councils on his (Chombo’s) involvement in illegal possession of stands. We will examine every report made by the councils. What is disturbing is the pre-emptive strike of suspending and firing councillors who are doing their job."

So far at least three cases of fraud against Chombo have been reported to the police but no action has been taken.