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Obert Mpofu, Tendai Biti fighting to control diamonds money

by Mafu Sithabile
08 Jun 2011 at 05:04hrs | Views
FINANCE Minister Tendai Biti's bid to take over the administration of diamonds has hit a snag after Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu told him that control of the gems falls under his jurisdiction.

Minister Mpofu has been irked by attempts by Minister Biti to take full and unilateral control of the crafting of the Diamond Act and downgrade the Ministry of Mines to a mere bystander that should only play an advisory role.

The spat between the two ministers followed a letter written by Minister Biti inviting Minister Mpofu to submit input to him in his efforts to come up with the Diamond Act, which the former argues would enhance transparency on diamond revenue.

This did not go down well with Minister Mpofu who wondered why Minister Biti was taking an active role on matters that fall within his jurisdiction.

Minister Mpofu said he had no problem with a proposal by Minister Biti to have officials from his Ministry and entities under his armpit to meet with their Finance counterparts including those from the Zimbabwe

Revenue Authority to work together over the diamond issues.

"We however, take exception to the unnecessary drama that has been played out over diamond revenues and most importantly, the stance insinuating oversight by your Ministry over my Ministry," said Minister

Mpofu in his letter dated May 24, 2011.

"This stance is currently fuelling efforts by your Ministry to introduce the 'Diamond Act', a statutory enactment that will regulate issues that fall squarely within my do-main. Your conduct in this regard is totally unacceptable. While this does not help matters, we hope you realise this soon if progress is to be made."

Minister Mpofu said his ministry was determined to remain the biggest contributor to the fiscal revenue.
"To this end, transparency is not only our core value but a paramount principle.

"In this regard, all stakeholders including Zimra are involved in all processes relating to the mining and sale of diamonds," said Minister Mpofu.

In his earlier letter, Minister Biti had complained that Zimra was being excluded in the sale and any process involving distribution of diamond revenues, yet there was a standing agreement between the two Ministries to include it.

"A further issue we need to discuss is the distribution of diamond revenue, commission and working capital by various actors in the value chain," wrote Minister Biti.

"We need to agree on those issues so that they may be incorporated on a Diamond Act we are working on as the Ministry of Finance which will deal with the issue of transparency vis a viz diamond revenue as opposed to the work you are doing which will deal with the mining sector."

In another letter dated April 26, 2011, Minister Biti had requested that the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation remit the Government share in revenue generated from the January sales.

"Surely by now the ZMDC should be in a position to transit this amount to Treasury.

"May you urgently transfer this amount to Treasury. May you also indicate to us the position with regard to the subsequent sales. How much was realised and what was the Government's share?" wrote Minister Biti.
In his response on diamond revenue, Minister Mpofu said diamond revenue due to Government received to date, had been transmitted to Government.

"As you will appreciate, because of the hurtful and debilitating effect of the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and the determination of OFAC (United States's Office of Foreign Assets Control) to seize all diamond revenue, our efforts to secure receipt of diamond sales revenue into Zimbabwe continue to be impeded," said Minister Mpofu.

Minister Biti has of late been under fire for wanting to be a "Super Minister" with more powers than his counterparts in Cabinet and has been accused of even trying to usurp President Mugabe's powers as Head of State and Government.

He has been refusing to award civil servants a salary increment despite indications by Treasury officials that it was feasible to raise the salaries.

Principals to the Global Political Agreement - President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara - have since ordered him to raise the salaries of civil servants this month.

Source - TNZ