HARARE – Zimbabwe will for the first time this week sell its diamonds in Belgium to a wide range of buyers and the country is expected to rake in no less than $37 million.
The lifting of sanctions by the European Union on Zimbabwe’s diamond companies is a welcome development as the sale of diamonds has been shrouded in secrecy amid complaints of smuggling, corruption and looting since the discovery of diamonds in Marange in 2006.
We strongly urge the relevant authorities to ensure that diamond proceeds from Antwerp are channelled to Treasury to help ease liquidity challenges in the country.
We also applaud promises made by Mines minister Walter Chidhakwa to bring transparency in the diamond sector and all the players in the industry must work together to ensure that all proceeds from the gems are accounted for.
As speculation grows that Zimbabwe’s economy is slipping into a second down turn, the authorities need to boost revenue from the sector that has been blighted by allegations of smuggling and lack of transparency.
The discovery of diamonds in Chiadzwa area brought hope to many Zimbabweans especially after more than a decade of scorching economic pain caused by Zanu PF’s maladministration.
It is projected that if the industry is fully-exploited, the Zimbabwean gems can contribute 10 percent to the global diamond market.
However, after more than five years of full exploitation and trading, those hopes have been battered and are now expectedly fading away.
Everyone in the country had hoped that the gems would change their lives.
Now, reality is dawning that what seemed to be a wonder of the world was just a discovery for a greedy few. The diamonds contribution to the fiscus, smells more of a curse than a fortune.
Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa recently indicated that in the nine months to September this year, Treasury did not receive a single penny from the sale of diamonds. This is mind boggling to say the least.
The shock confession by Chinamasa exonerated former Finance minister Tendai Biti who constantly complained that there was a lot of opaqueness in the diamond industry as no money was ever channelled to Treasury.
We all knew the gems were being sold and we expected government — as a shareholder in most diamond companies in Marange through the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation — to receive its fair share of the proceeds.
A report by Partnership Africa Canada last year stated that the lack of transparency over the flow of the money pointed to systemic failures in Zimbabwe’s internal controls, including an illegal trade.