Diamond audit fiercely resisted

As the controversy around Zimbabwe's intricate diamond saga continues, officials from the Ministry of Mines are said to be fiercely resisting an audit of how diamonds are being sold.

Fears are that the illegal dealings in the precious stones between Zanu-PF and the underworld would be exposed and big names in government would be implicated.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti last week ordered investigations into the controversial sale of diamonds by the Ministry of Mines amid revelations that money accrued from diamond sales is not going through Treasury.

President Robert Mugabe ignited the diamonds issue when he claimed that he would use $200-million realised from diamond sales to increase salaries for civil servants.

But Biti dismissed Mugabe’s claims, saying he had not received any money from diamond sales. His statements appeared to be corroborated by Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba, who contradicted his boss by saying civil servants would only be paid once the money is found.

The diamonds issue has sparked a big fight between Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Biti on one side, and Mugabe and his hardliners, including the military, on the other side.

Last year, the Sunday Times revealed that a cabal of government ministers and top officials was deliberately creating problems with the Kimberley Process so that they could continue selling the disputed Chiadzwa diamonds in the underworld market.

So far nobody, except a few individuals linked to Mugabe, is aware of what is going on in the diamonds market.

On Friday, some top government officials, who were not named, dismissed Biti’s ambitious move to probe the diamond sales, saying he had no power to do so.

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF is accused of using diamond money to fund campaigns and their vote-buying sprees. So far, Mugabe has not explained where he sourced $30-million worth of farming imports which are being distributed throughout the country to peasant farmers.

A KP review team, diamond dealers in Harare, politicians and civic organisations monitoring diamond dealings said they believed there was a cartel of greedy senior politicians, lawyers, businessmen and top civil servants who were making it difficult for KP to allow Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds.

Since diamonds are being sold unmonitored, the country is losing sales worth millions of dollars to underworld buyers in South Africa, Dubai, India, Lebanon and other diamond-dealing countries.

A diamond dealer who spoke to the Sunday Times on Friday said: "The problems between Minister Biti and some of his colleagues in government are emanating from lack of transparency in government over the handling of diamonds. The diamonds are being sold secretly and the government will never benefit.

"Right now they are claiming that Treasury has received money from diamond sales but we know that it’s a lie."

Last year, diamond dealers suggested that President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai should appoint a committee to engage the Kimberley Process so that diamonds can be sold properly, with every carat being accounted for.