President Robert Mugabe has taken direct control of licensing all players in the local diamond industry after his relatives, ministers and senior officials looted gemstones worth billions, resulting in poor earnings for the state.
Mugabe is now single-handedly appointing miners, traders, dealers, ‘beneficiators’, manufacturers and brokers to mine and buy the diamonds in a bid process that has been described by insiders as less than transparent.
Mugabe secretly appointed the shadowy First Element Services to act as his intermediary. He has also appointed Antwerp Diamond Services to assist in certification of the Marange diamonds, which were previously classified as blood diamonds because of the extreme army violence and murders associated with the takeover of the diamond fields by the dictatorship.
According to a parliamentary report, former mining minister Obert Mpofu was involved in massive scandals, often demanding multi-million dollar bribes from companies applying for concessions. Military generals and others aligned to Mugabe and his wife Grace Mugabe also accessed concessions through underhand deals.
MPs’ calls for concessions known as exclusive prospecting orders (EPOs) issued to the Chinese Red Army and Zimbabwean regime figures to be revoked have been rejected by the government. Defending the government action to maintain the status quo, mines and mineral development deputy minister Fred Moyo said parliament had no power to reverse concessions granted by Mugabe, which have become the subject of controversy after it emerged some of the companies were not paying tax. All the companies in Marange declared losses running into hundreds of millions of dollars in what government auditors said were corruption-riddled transactions.
“The Mines and Minerals Act does not have a provision for Parliamentary revocation or veto of an Exclusive Prospecting Order (EPO) award,” Moyo said. “The mandate is left with the issuing authority and in this case His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Parliament, however, oversees compliance with the Act per procedure. All EPOs are applied for through the Mining Affairs Board (MAB), which recommends to the Minister, who in turn recommends to His Excellency the President for approval.”
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