Could Zimbabwe’s diamond sales be the ‘smoking gun’?

OPINION – Finance Minister, Tendai Biti appears to have hit a raw nerve when he called for an audit of Zimbabwe’s diamond sales. Suddenly, Zanu-pf activists appear caught unawares and with their backs to the wall, they are all baying for Biti’s blood.

 As a result, there are growing fears that Zimbabwe’s diamond sales may be the ‘smoking gun’. 

Pandora’s box

After successfully blocking a land audit, it is understandable that Mugabe allies would not be forced to open Pandora’s box without a fight. It is however, imperative that there be an urgent and thorough forensic investigation into Zimbabwe’s diamond sales before the rich deposits get depleted without benefiting the country. There is so much at stake hence the secrecy and resistance within Zanu-pf and military hierarchy to any public scrutiny of the diamond sales that you would be excused for thinking they are party assets.

The major propaganda offensive launched by Mugabe’s spin-doctors in the government media against Tendai Biti in particular and the MDC party led by the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in general, seems to lend credit to the Shona saying: "Kunzwa chati kwatara, hunge uine katurike. Only the guilty one is worried about an investigation." The wave of arrests on trumped up charges seems to have been activated by Mugabe’s loyalists..

Zanu-pf spin doctor Jonathan Moyo called for Biti’s arrest on Sunday 20/02/11 within four days of yet a bigger threat by the Supreme Leader that he was going to ask the country’s security chiefs to tackle the MDC hierarchy.

Whatever Jonathan Moyo promised Zanu-pf to be re-admitted following his erstwhile vitriolic campaign against the geriatric tyrant, it seems he may have bitten more than he could chew when he embarked on his solitary mission to resurrect Zanu-pf from its ‘Lazarus Moment’ probably in return for a seat in the anachronistic politburo.

A can of worms

Some analysts have argued that party leader Robert Mugabe could have opened a can of worms when he promised government workers would get an increment after a third diamond auction raked in US$250 million only to make a u-turn later (Zimbabwe Standard, 13/02/11).

He even bragged that his farm workers were better paid than civil servants, although in August 2010 workers at the Mugabe family’s Gushungo Dairy Farm accused their employer of exploitation, claiming working conditions were hostile as 50 workers were sent on unpaid leave (The Zimbabwean, 18/08/10). 

In the wake of the controversial leaked cables alleging smuggling of Marange diamonds, the hostile response by Zanu-pf activists to calls for an audit suggests there is something fishy going on. The people of Zimbabwe need to get the truth sooner rather than later as some dictators elsewhere have allegedly used their final days in power to loot national treasures before being removed by regime change revolutions.

Press reports that over US$100 million realized from the auction of the Marange diamonds last year had allegedly gone missing seem to be just the tip of the iceberg as Treasury was said to have received only US$64 million from the sale of alluvial and kimberlite diamonds. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth especially amidst disclosures of massive smuggling of the diamonds.

Darkest secret

In ‘Mugabe’s darkest secret: An £800bn blood diamond mine he’s running with China’s Red Army’, The Daily Mail on 18th September 2010 published a detailed undercover investigation claimed there is a runway big enough for huge cargo planes.

‘There is also a sophisticated radar equipment, a fully operational control tower and comfortable barracks for the Chinese officials overseeing the entire operation. And twice a week, its wings wobbling on waves of thermals rising from this scorching corner of the continent, an Antonov An-12 cargo plane can be heard droning towards the airstrip’ said the report.

The Daily Mail added "The departing flights leave with rough, uncut diamonds worth millions. No flight plans are filed and there are no records of these trips.’

Speaking recently, the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai said: ‘It is disturbing to note that the people who are supposed to protect our mineral resources are at the forefront of looting them" (Timeslive.co.za, 17/02/11).

Lost direction

Pius Wakatama once said he was pleasantly surprised at the number of his Zanu-pf friends who were going to him to apologise for some of the things they said to him because he criticized their party but they had changed their minds openly saying: "Musangano warasa gwara. Hauchagadzirika. The party has lost direction and cannot be redirected."

Pius Wakatama was prophetic when he observed that: ‘A good number are outright criminal mafia types who successfully ensconced themselves in the higher echelons of power. Were he alive today and observing his Zimbabwean counterparts, Al Capone would be green with envy’ (Zimbabwe Standard, 26/06/05).

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri is a London based political analyst and regular columnist for The Zimbabwe Mai, he can be contatcted at zimanalysis2009@gmail.com