Enormous discoveries of diamonds in Zimbabwe offer a path out of poverty for the struggling country, just as they did for neighboring Botswana. But poor governance is leading to little benefit for Zimbabweans.
Even the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangeri, says he does not know where the revenue is going from the licensed-to-export diamond mines, controlled by three firms with Lebanese and Chinese interests involved. The lack of transparency is straining an already fragile power-sharing arrangement between Tsvangeri’s party and that of President Robert Mugabe.
In December the New York Times reported that millions of dollars of revenue is being lost to corruption via the military and to Mugabe’s party Zanu-PF.
Mike Davis, a specialist at Global Witness, a group that has extensively researched the contested mines in eastern Zimbabwe, told the Times, “the benefits of the diamond sales go primarily to allies of the president.” He said that this was “part of a wider attempt by people around Mugabe to seize the diamond wealth for their own political purposes, which in the short term means beating and cheating their way to another election.”
Finance minister Tendai Biti, who belongs to prime minister Tsvangirai’s party, told ABC Australia this week:
There is no transparency in the present moment. The Chinese that are there, the Lebanese that are there – no-one is sure of what is happening vis-a-vis the revenue transmission. They are Zimbabwean assets and they have to benefit the Zimbabwean people. So far they’re not benefiting Zimbabwean people.
Asked to give a figure on how much is being lost, Tendai said: “the figure is close to billions.”
According to Zimbabwean human rights group Sokwanele, who has produced an extensive report on the diamond fields:
What should have been a means of salvation for the virtually bankrupt country after ten years of chaos that saw world record inflation and the nation brought to its knees has led, instead, to greed, corruption and exploitation on a grand scale, the use of forced labour – both adults and children – horrifying human rights abuses, brutal killings, degradation of the environment and the massive enrichment of a select few.
Photo from paparutzi via flickr