Zimbabwe’s Diamond Fields: A Tale of Unprecedented Plunder

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Civil society, trade unions and community organisations should unite and demand  not only the end of corruption at Chiadzwa but the nationalisation and appropriation of all the properties of those who looted. The failures of private capital have been laid bare…

In 2008 at the height of the economic crisis thousands of unemployed youths flooded the Chiadzwa mining area in what was a dramatic ‘diamond rush’ following the expiration of De Beers’ mining licence in 2006 and the cancellation of Africa Consolidated resources’ mining licence. De Beers had plundered diamonds at Chiadzwa for roughly 13 years using its ‘Exclusive Prospecting Orders’ (EPOS).It had a 47 EPOS in Chipinge. The international diamond mining company covertly expropriated thousands of tonnes of diamonds under the guise of ‘exploration samples’, ‘crushed rock samples’ and ‘kimberlitic rock samples’.

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Raymond Sango

The unemployed youths who later on descended on Chiadzwa to pan for diamonds were brutally massacred by the military and police as the government moved in to create a ‘formal looting format’ and partially in response to the World Diamond Council which pressured the government to curb the smuggling of diamonds. Morethan four hundred miners were killed through indiscriminate volley of gunshots fired by horse galloping police men and women and accompanied by vicious dogs and helicopter assasins. Seven private entities began operations at the mine namely: Marange Resources, Anjin Investments Ltd, Diamond Mining Company, Gyn Nyame Resources, Jinan Mining Ltd, Kusena Diamonds, and Mbada Diamonds. The ownership was a joint venture between the state and these firms.

Chiadzwa is a classic example of how the workings of capitalist accumulation and how private property works to exclude the majority from the mainstream economy. Hundreds of unemployed youths were massacred and thousands driven away to pave way for an ‘efficient’ model of accumulation which to date is egregious by its pillaging within the framework of private property which is the most salient feature of neoliberal capitalism. It has been estimated that the Chiadzwa diamond fields account for 13% of Global rough diamond supply and that the aggregate worth of all the diamonds at the field is between $60 billion and $70 billion. Government estimations were that diamond production was supposed to rake in $600million monthly in revenue in the aftermath of the Kimberly Process Certification in 2012. Rough projections on diamond production at Chiadzwa by the Ministry of Mines put a figure of $1billion in diamond revenue for the year 2012 alone and an increase in subsequent years to $3billion.

Diamonds have the potential to produce enough capital to generate employment and fund education, health and retool the industries. The looting partnership between the government bureaucrats, the Chinese and other foreign companies has truncated the potential of diamonds in improving the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.

At some point Minister of Mines, Chidhakwa in response to the rampant pillaging of diamonds at Chiadzwa said, “..will rather halt mining operations if mining companies continue to fleece government through understating of the stones.” In 2016 Chidhakwa argued that during the brief period of artisal mining at Chiadzwa which was soon broken by callous repression, diamond mining had a significantly larger and seriously felt multiplier effect on the economy than during the period of joint ventures between the state and the Chinese firms.

There have been a number of noticeable and recorded encounters to illustrate the depth of the plunder of diamonds such as the disappearances of sacks full of diamonds and inconsistencies between the price the diamonds were sold and the figures sent to the government. In 2015 Lovemore Kurotwi, the Director of Core Mining and Minerals and Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Diamond Technology Centre was charged with defrauding the of $2billion through covert and underhand dealings in the diamond industry. Transfer pricing, trade mis-invoicing, and capital flight through the repatriation of profits by Anjin to China and by local elites to secret bank accounts in South Africa, Hong Kong , the Cayman Islands and other areas is also oozing a significant amount of capital that should be used to improve the lives of the poor. Conservative estimates of the loot drained by government bureaucrats working in concert with Chinese companies depict the figure of $16 billion as the money lost to corruption, an amount which surpasses the $11 billion in debts Zimbabwe owes to both domestic and internal creditors.

The history of Chiadzwa diamond fields and other adjacent areas such as Chimanimani is replete with deep-seated pillaging of diamonds by both foreign and domestic capitalist elites. From the secret theft of diamonds by DeBeers from the 1990s to former MDC Treasurer General Roy Bennett’s surreptitious grand robbery to the sophisticated looting by Chinese companies working in cohorts with the state and elites in the army and ZANU PF. The tale of ‘Mujuru’s Hill’ …’Churu chaMai Mujuru’ is very popular among Zimbabweans which symbolizes the partition and looting of diamond fields by ZANU PF elites with the strong backing of the organized violence of the army and police.

Realizing the possibility of resistance emerging in Chiadzwa and as part of implementing the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment policy , the mining companies and the state launched the Zimunya-Marange Community Share Ownership Trust meant to throw some carrots to the poor seething with anger as they helplessly watch billions been made and expropriated from their own land with many being relocated to other arears to become destitute as they were not given sufficient resources to kick-start their lives interrupted by the penetration of private capital.

The recent cursory realization of the pillage occurring at Chiaadzwa by state and the abrupt halting of mining operations if the truth be told has been provoked by the current political dynamics in Zanu-PF as well as the global economic dynamics that have undermined the value of diamond trade. The annihilation by a faction calling itself the G-40 of two factions within Zanu-PF, one called Gamatox now a party using the name, Zimbabwe People First party led by former Vice President Joice Mujuru and the Lacoste faction led by Vice President Emmerson Munangagwa is a telling hint of the ruling class power struggles which are at play at the Chiaadzwa diamond fields. Although there is corruption at Chiaadzwa which is being used to justify the ejection of corrupt companies and the amalgamation of all the firms under the Zimbabwe Diamond Mining Corporation, there is a concerted effort by the state and ruling elites aligned to the first lady led Gamatox faction to wipe clean the diamond fields of all their enemies and to enfeeble the internal rebellion by cutting the source of funding, the feeding trough. Thus the state intervention under the pretext of addressing corruption is not genuine.

Another dynamic which is at play is the effect of the global commodity price fluctuations which have hit hard the diamond industry which has been the core driving force of the Zanu-PF electioneering strategy and also at the core of its patronage system. The fall in the demand of diamonds has among other reasons meant a curtailment of investment in Chiadzwa which is typical of capital when confronted by the inherent tendency of the rate of profit to fall. This has led to reduced output of diamonds at Chiadzwa. The fall in demand has been responded by an increased demand for the ‘lions share’ in diamond mining as it has been put by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe during a recent interview. Faced with an unrelenting economic crisis the thinking within the state has shifted towards a greater level of nationalisation to stimulate the economy and derail the impending decisive economic explosion.

If there is express acknowledgement that there was plunder at Chiadzwa diamond fields, a commission of inquiry should be opened to investigate and expose those who were responsible with appropriate legal measures being instituted against the criminals. Civil society, trade unions and community organizations should unite and demand  not only the end of corruption at Chiadzwa but the nationalization and appropriation of all the properties of those who looted. The failures of private capital have been laid bare , there is great need and urgency to clearly demand the public ownership of Chiadzwa and its placement under workers control. If the Minister of Mines agrees that artisanal mines did better than private capital, then a lot more can be achieved by organized workers running Chiadzwa.

There is no equivocation in stating that the $14 billion stolen from shady diamond dealings at Chiadzwa is nearly four times the budget of Zimbabwe which is $4. billion. There is no doubt that the amount stolen if it was to be shared equally among the 13 million Zimbabweans every citizen would have received at least a $1000 which would have gone a long way especially considering that 65% of Zimbabweans are precariously surviving at less than $1 a day. If the money was properly accounted for and channelled directly to treasury it would have meant more resources to fund re-industrialization and create employment as well as reduce the import bill which is ever ballooning and partly responsible for the liquidity crisis. It would have meant more resources to fund free education, health, water and funding of agriculture to alleviate rural poverty and ensure food security . It would have meant also the irrelevance of international capital, FDI and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank since we would be mobilising domestic resources to develop the economy.

But alas, money is being stolen by elites who at the end when confronted by an economic crisis subject the poor to inhumane and slave policies demanded by the IMF and the World Bank to lend their loans which carry huge interest rates usually packed at 5% per annum meaning that the poor will spend their lives paying back interests of loans they scarcely benefited from.

[Raymond Sango is a member of the International Socialist Organisation and a Convener of the Bornfree Consciousness Movement (BCM) .Article first published on QuinaMsebenziQuina. Re-posted by AfricaFightNow.org! with the author’s permission]

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