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article imageZimbabwe diamond fields 'plundered' by Mugabe cronies

By Larry Clifton     Nov 12, 2012 in Politics
Harare - According to a report released Monday, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, his appointees, international gem dealers and criminals have enriched themselves in "the biggest plunder of diamonds since Cecil Rhodes," according to an AP report.
While colonial magnate Cecil Rhodes plundered Africa’s diamond fields a century ago, Mugabe and his ilk have stolen a minimum of $2 billion from the Marange fields, money that was meant for the Zimbabwe treasury. The loss is reportedly a “conservative estimate,” according to the report.
Unemployment in Zimbabwe is about 80 percent and the country, desperately poor, has a shrinking economy.
Since 2000, the Zimbabwean government has seized most of the farmland previously developed by (mostly white) commercial farmers and reallocated it to blacks. However blacks who were given the farmland have not similarly maintained the farms and in many cases sold off the farm equipment for short-term profits, making economic recovery less plausible.
A decade ago, expanded mining operations were seen as a possible agent of change that would recharge what was once among Africa's strongest economies.
Meanwhile, government spending accounts for about 97.8% of Zimbabwe's GDP which is maintained by printing money. The result is hyperinflation at a time when state enterprises are strongly subsidized and taxes and tariffs remain artificially high.
Zimbabwe's eastern Marange field is among the largest diamond deposits in the world and mining began there in 2006. The wealth skimmed by Mugabe and his associates could have lifted Zimbabwe's economy, which has been decimated by years of corruption and political turmoil, according to Partnership Africa Canada, a member of the Kimberley Process, the world regulatory body on the diamond trade.
The PAC charges coincide with the Zimbabwe government's conference on the diamond trade in Victoria Falls is set to begin and further downgrades already diminished international respect Zimbabwe gem trade.
Zimbabwe government officials attending the conference denied the allegations, calling them "totally false."
At the conference, Mugabe pledged that Zimbabwe will introduce new laws to enhance the transparency and accountability of mining operations that would protect the "international reputation of our diamonds."
Opening the conference, Mugabe said his government is committed to observing "international laws on diamond mining, storage and trading."
Government contractors, including Filip van Loere, a Belgian diamond expert working for the Mugabe government, in 2010 estimated the country could extract between 30 million to 40 million carats a year, worth about $2 billion annually, the PAC report said.
The diamonds are being mined and sold “the funds are not reaching the Zimbabwean treasury,” according to the report.
For his part, Goodwills Masimirembwa, chief of Zimbabwe Mining Development Company, told The Associated Press that “it was the first time he heard charges of diamonds disappearing.”
"No diamonds have ever gone missing," said Masimirembwa. "When we are selling our diamonds all stakeholders, the police, revenue board and the country's mineral marketing body come together. So are they saying all these institutions are in collusion? Instead, let them come up with specific allegations, then the police will investigate."
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