SENIOR parliamentarians were opposed to former Zimbabwe president, Robert Mugabe, making a public appearance in which he would answer questions regarding missing billions linked to illicit diamond mining.
“They are saying they do not want their old man to be embarrassed especially by the opposition members of parliament. It will not happen,” an official told Reuters. The official was referring to some influential ruling ZANU-PF politicians.
Temba Mliswa, head of Zimbabwe’s mines portfolio committee, said on May 8 that there was a determination Mugabe provide answers to previous pronouncements the state had been deprived of at least $15bn in diamond revenue by mining companies. The diamonds were predominantly mined in Marange, a diamond-rich area more than 400km east of the Zimbabwe capital, Harare.
Mugabe subsequently expelled the companies – joint ventures between Chinese companies and the army, police and intelligence services – whose operations were shielded from public scrutiny, said Reuters. “It has been delayed but that resolution still stands,” said Mliswa, head of the mines portfolio committee in an interview with Reuters. “He will have to appear before the committee whether he likes it or not,” said Mliswa.
Zimbabwe’s mines minister, Winston Chitando, told Miningmx on the sidelines of the Zimbabwe Indaba conference in Johannesburg during March that the investigation into the alleged $15bn diamond theft was underway. “The mines and energy parliamentary committee is running with an inquiry at the moment,” said Chitando. “They are calling people for interviews and discussions. I can’t comment further because they are doing their work,” he added.
Estimates vary, but it is thought the area has yielded some 16 million carats of diamonds. Unfortunately, the region has long been associated with smuggling.
Said Mliswa in an interview with Miningmx during March: “We need to get to the heart of these $15bn in stolen diamonds. It is incumbent on Parliament to conduct an inquiry into the theft. We have to ensure that there will be compliance. You ignore the power of Parliament at your own peril,” he said.
Mliswa also said that Zimbabwe was working to break-down the perception that the country was irrevocably corrupt. For every corrupt official there was a corrupt investor, he said. “Don’t corrupt our people,” he said. “What I’d like the President to do is that if you are seen as a corrupt investor, the official is sent to jail and the investor kicked out. We are all responsible for the past, but we are also responsible for the new dispensation,” he added.