Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe has steadfastly refused to appear before a Parliamentary committee trying to interrogate him over his claim that $15 billion of diamond revenue went missing, and there is little that Parliament can do about it beyond the shouting.
After his no-show on Monday, the Mines and Energy portfolio committee chaired by Norton MP Temba Mliswa wrote a ‘final letter’ to warn the 94-year-old of the legal consequences of his continued defiance, specifically that he risks facing contempt of court charges if he ignores the committee’s invitation again.
The committee wants to quiz Mugabe over his 2016 claim that Zimbabwe had been deprived of at least $15 billion in diamond earnings by mining companies, including joint ventures between Chinese companies and the army, police and intelligence services whose operations were shielded from public scrutiny.
Members of security agencies have appeared before the committee but their responses have raised more questions than answers and they seemed to have licence to operate carte blanche.
Mugabe expelled the companies from the Marange gem fields in February 2016 and replaced them with a state-owned diamond company.
Mugabe told the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) in an interview which aired on March 5, 2016:
“We have not received much from the diamond industry at all. Not much by way of earnings. I don’t think we have exceeded $2 billion or so and yet we think that well over 15 or more billion dollars have been earned in that area. So where have our carats been going? The gems? You see, there has been quite a lot of secrecy in handling them and we have been blinded ourselves. That means our people who we expected to be our eyes and ears have not been able to see or hear what was going on and lots of swindling, smuggling has taken place and the companies that have been mining have virtually, I want to say, robbed us of our wealth. That is why we have decided that this area should be a monopoly area and only the State should be able to do the mining in that area.”
Mugabe’s statement ostensibly covered the period between 2009, when government chased away the over 20 000 illegal miners from the Marange fields using the army and took effective control of the area, to 2015, the full year preceding his statements.
Did Zimbabwe really lose $15 billion of diamond revenue as Mugabe alleged then? This report by Zimfact debunks the myth:
During that period, Zimbabwe’s cumulative gross rough diamond sales amounted to $2 432 041 507.87, according to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme’s rough diamond production and sales statistics, the report reads. Production, over that period, was nearly 50 million carats.
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