Diplomats visit Zimbabwe diamond fields
Western diplomats on Tuesday toured controversial diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe where rights groups have reported abuses by security forces pushing out illegal panners.
The visit, the first by foreign diplomats to the high-security diamond fields, saw ambassadors led by the European Union head of delegation to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell’Ariccia, touring two mines, the Chinese-owned Anjin and Marange Resources where officials led them through the extraction process.
The diplomats asked the Anjin management how much revenue they had remitted to the government following a complaint by Finance Minister Tendai Biti that the treasury is yet to receive money from the firm since the start of the year.
Munyaradzi Machacha, a director at Anjin disputed Biti’s projection that earnings from diamond mining would contribute $600 million to state coffers.
“We have contributed $30 million to the fiscus through royalties because an average price of a single carat is $60 and not $1,500 as projected by the Minister of Finance Tendai Biti,” Machacha told the envoys.
He added “Biti should be man enough to tell the world that he made a mistake in his budget presentation on revenue coming from diamond sales as figures he projected an amount way off the mark.”
Machacha said Anjin is yet to break even and recover around $400 million invested by the Chinese into the operation.
Ambassadors from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany and Spain were set to continue the tour on Wednesday.
They are due to visit to a settlement where villagers who were removed from the vast Marange diamond area, about 330 kilometres (205 miles) southeast of the capital Harare, were relocated.
The Marange fields, one of Africa’s biggest diamond finds in recent years, have witnessed gross human rights violations, according to rights groups.
The Zimbabwean army cleared small-scale miners from the area in late 2008 in an operation that Human Rights Watch says killed more than 200 people.
Rights groups accuse Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, which shares power with the MDC in a tense coalition government, of funneling profits from Marange diamonds to senior military officials and party leaders.
Diamond watchdog, Kimberley Process has given the country the green light to sell its gems despite opposition from rights groups and Western nations.