Security Forces on High Alert as Mugabe Clashes with China over Diamonds
The Zimbabwean government has deployed the armed forces to the eastern Manicaland region to safeguard diamond mines after an invasion triggered by president Robert Mugabe’s ban on Chinese firms mining gemstones in the rich area resulted in 50 arrests.
Mines and mining development minister Walter Chidhakwa confirmed the deployment of army and police units following his announcement of a ban on several companies linked to the Chinese Red Army.
Fifty illegal diamond hunters were nabbed after encroaching on the diamond fields following the change of ownership, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Republic Police Tauya Mudede said.
Beijing has reacted furiously to the Zimbabwean dictator’s decision to boot out Chinese Red Army firms from the lucrative Marange diamond fields.
The Harare government announced Monday that it was terminating all diamond mining agreements mainly with Chinese companies, accusing them of corruption and established the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Mining Company to take over their operations. The companies were shut down without notice and given 90 days to remove their staff and equipment after disagreements over Mugabe’s intention to seize 50 per cent of each of the firms without compensation.
Government sources said Mugabe had effectively seized mining equipment worth hundreds of millions without paying after issuing a directive that company officials were barred from entering mine premises without letters of authorization from the mining minister, who should provide guards to ensure that diamond stocks were not taken out.
“This is a serious violation not only of international investment agreements that the two governments signed but also a betrayal of the goodwill of the Chinese people,” a Chinese diplomat said.
A high level Chinese delegation is now expected in Harare to try and persuade Mugabe to reverse the decision, which has plunged billions of dollars of investments into turmoil.
Regime sources however told Now Daily that the present dispute started in 2014 after China asked Mugabe to name a successor before they could release the billions of dollars pledged in loans for infrastructure projects. Mugabe wanted his wife Grace Mugabe to succeed him but this was not palatable to Beijing. Eventually, Mugabe told the Chinese he would be succeeded by Emmerson Mnangagwa and appointed him vice president.
Apparently, Mugabe has become jealous of Mnangagwa’s progress in building ties with Chinese officials, which has upset his secret plan to install his wife as president, the sources said. Mugabe is now on a mission to scuttle Mnangagwa’s career by poisoning relations with the Chinese military, which his deputy cultivated while he was minister of defence.
Mugabe has not formally broken ranks with China. However, banning Chinese Red Army companies from the Marange diamond fields, which he surrendered in exchange for weapons and support at the United Nations Security Council after he lost elections in 2008 is seen as a step in that direction.
The Chinese army, through front companies like Anjin, Jinan, Sino Zimbabwe and the joint venture Mbada stole diamonds valued by NGO researchers and official investigators at billions of dollars.
Mugabe told visiting Chinese president Xi Jingpin in December 2015 that he had blacklisted several Chinese firms, accusing them of corruption and giving multi-million dollar bribes to his top officials.
Soon after his controversial re-election in 2013, Mugabe confirmed plans to get rid of the Chinese mining diamonds in the country and form one company to mine the gemstones in the rich Marange fields.
On Monday, mines minister Walter Chidhakwa, a Mugabe relative, announced that all diamond mining contracts held by the Chinese firms had been cancelled. Chidhakwa also announced the formation of the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Mining Company to take over the concessions previously held by the Chinese firms.
The ban on diamond mining by the Chinese is likely to have a spiral effect on numerous other investments by Beijing, which has an octopus-like grip on the Zimbabwean economy and military. The Red Army is still in charge of all military training in Zimbabwe after Mugabe kicked out the British army. They are involved in infrastructure projects ranging from transport and communications to energy and agriculture.
However, Zimbabwean officials complain that most of the agreements are still on paper after Harare failed to raise the amounts required to initiate the programmes.
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