Parliamentarian pledges Mugabe will face diamond graft inquiry

Robert Mugabe, former president of Zimbabwe

FORMER Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe would not be required to attend the country’s parliament on May 9 to answer questions about $15bn worth of missing diamond production, but he couldn’t evade the matter indefinitely.

“It has been delayed but that resolution still stands,” said Temba 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.

Reuters said the committee had ordered Mugabe to face legislators over his previous pronouncements that the state had been deprived of at least $15bn in diamond revenue by mining companies. 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. Those entities were then replaced with a state-owned diamond company.

The diamonds were predominantly mined in Marange, a diamond-rich area more than 400km east of the Zimbabwe capital, Harare. Mliswa said a new date would be set for Mugabe’s parliamentary appearance – his first since the bloodless coup in November in which he was replaced by presidential incumbent, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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.