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Tendai Biti's advise to Zimbabwe's new minister on mines

18 Sep 2013 at 14:34hrs | Views
The country's diamonds have acquired such notoriety for all the wrong reasons, corruption, arbitrage, rent and opaqueness.

Without a doubt therefore Walter Chidakwa, the new Minister of Mines owes Zimbabweans a duty of care in ensuring a fundamental paradigm shift in the management of our diamonds in this country.

His biggest task is to understand fully then destroy, the infrastructure of diamond arbitrage controlled by a local and international mafia whose bases range from Zimbabwe to Beijing via Israeli and Lebanon.

His must be warned that he will be dealing with a mafia that is militarized, vicious and uncompromising. As he digs deeper, if he is bold enough ,he will come across layer and layer of intricate mendacity, and when he gets closer to the heart of the matter, if he is still live alive, he will be shocked by the names he will unearth.

At that stage, even he will have to give up. Water does not go up a mountain. The removal, at the instance of Belgium of ZMDC from the EU list takes away from the mafia one powerful tool that they have always used.

The EU list has been used over the years as justification for the opaqueness that presently exists.

A point I realized many years ago and in fact given the extent of the massive loot led me to infact demand ZMDC s liberation from that list.

The question will things now change. I doubt it. I doubt it very much.

What would be critical for Walter would, be to ensure that he puts in place a sustainable frame work for diamond mining in Zimbabwe .

Firstly, a Diamond Act is long over due in Zimbabwe that must delink diamonds from both the Precious Minerals Act as well the Mines and Minerals Act.

The new Diamond Act must among other things deal with the following issues, that are a fundamental prerequisite of making diamonds play their key role in this economy

1) the Act must deal with the question of reassertion of State control and dominium over diamonds.

2) it must then deal with a transparent mechanism of the parcelling out of joint venture diamond mining rights. The old order where concessions where opaquely given out to all kinds of smelly immoral characters some of whom have been looting this country since 1890 is not legal or sustainable.

3) it must delink and take out State Diamond mining from the ZMDC, which is loaded with other minerals to a Diamond Agency of Zimbabwe

4) it must establish a diamond regulator for thorough regulation of the industry from mining practices to transfer pricing etc

5) it must define unambiguously the entire gamut of a revenue cycle whilst placing the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority at the epicentre of the revenue collection

6) it must clearly define the manner of what is due to the State, redefine the special concept of diamond dividend and a simpler and quick method of collection

7) it must define fully a centralized method of diamond marketing provide for mandatory monthly or quarterly reports of diamond mining to parliament

9) provide for the key question of value addition and beneficiation including definitions of the quota reserved for the local diamond cutting industry

10) stipulate the obligation that in any event the mundane functions of cutting and polishing should be done locally

11) define the frame work of compensation for communities being displaced by Diamond mining

12) define the environmental framework for both alluvial and diamond mining.

Zimbabwe's diamond mines, even in this era of depressed commodity prices can earn this country a modest $3 billion, if properly managed.

Diamonds played a pernicious role in the 31 July election in Zimbabwe. They continue to play that role, and will play that role in future, particularly given Zanu's inevitable succession wars.

To avoid a resource curse and to ensure, Zimbabwe is liberated from the chaos, associated with alluvial diamonds wherever they are found on the African continent, there must be rethinking of the same.

Walter Chidakwa, will try. But like some of us, he will discover that this a entirely closed and privatized area. An absolute den of reptiles.

But good luck anywhere.


Source - Tendai Biti
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