Ministerial Misinformation Over Diamonds Exposed

The disinformation around the issue of income from diamonds pitting Finance Minister Tendai Biti against Mines Minister Obert Mpofu highlights the need to liberate the Press which is still under the firm control of Zanu (PF).

On the independent NewsDay.com news website, Biti on Wednesday dismissed claims that he had received £174 million in proceeds from the last two sales of diamonds.

But yesterday Mpofu claimed that an audit of proceeds from diamond sales had been completed and disputes between ministers over the matter had been "put to rest”, on Monday!.

He claimed that the verification showed that US$174 million was remitted to the Finance Ministry, and that the objective of the verification was to address the plight civil servants, which he was very concerned about.

This is probably what Biti described as sensational comments by Zanu PF officials to gain political mileage.

“It is regrettable that certain sections of the media and of this government still insist on the myth of $174 million being given to Treasury,” Biti said in an interview with NewsDay on Wednesday.

The disinformation is exposed because in Mpofu’s NewZimbabwe.com article he claimed that he had had a meeting with Biti on Monday and the Finance Minister had “acknowledged and accepted the reconciliation of the US$174 million, and that this was reported to Cabinet on Tuesday”.

“That matter has been put to rest," wrote Newzimbabwe, quoting the discredited Herald newspaper which claimed that the government had received its dividend share of US$174,223,814.88 from gross diamond sales of US$313,504,567.17 by Mbada Diamonds and Marange Resources.

This is all that the Herald and all its sister newspapers around the country publishes, and it also goes out on state radio, which means that 90 percent of the population received only this one-sided story.

Biti, however said that the starting point should be the source, base and legitimacy of the more than $313 504 567,17 that is claimed to be the gross profit?

"Who has done an audit to confirm the authenticity and legitimacy of these amounts in the absence of proper returns? Any fool can tell you that statutory obligations and statutory payments cannot not be treated as gross diamond revenue,” said Biti as reported on Newsday.

““Most importantly, it is clear that there is no transparency in the manner in which diamond revenues are being held in the country, and that is why I have ordered the Comptroller and Auditor-General to carry out an audit.

"The fact that some people are afraid of an audit is a reflection of the fact that we are on the right track.”

According to Biti the issue of civil servants salaries had to be handled in the context of removing from the books the 75 000 ghost workers who have been identified by the an audit.

Their inclusion on the Government payroll in 2008 was previously reported as having been authorised by the chairman of the public service commission, Mariyawanda Nzuwa.

Biti accused Zanu (PF) of "creating deliberate dishonesty" to divert attention from the real issue, which is the manner in which diamond money is being handled.