Zimbabwe: Diamond Mining Firms Face Stern Parliament Rebuke

Author: Alex Bell

courtesy of: All Africa

Two state authorised diamond mining firms, who have been mining the controversial Chiadzwa alluvial fields, could face a stern parliamentary rebuke for avoiding two consecutive parliamentary hearings on their activities.

The directors of the mining ventures, Canadile Mines and Mbada Investment (joint ventures between the government’s Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and South African investors) failed to appear for a scheduled meeting with the Parliamentary portfolio committee on mining on Monday. They also missed another meeting set up two weeks ago, and it’s understood legislators are considering pursuing ‘contempt of Parliament’ charges.

“We have asked for advice from the deputy clerk because we want to nail them. We are preparing for that and we want to conclude the process by next Monday so that on Tuesday we move the contempt of Parliament motion,” a legislator told the ZimOnline news service.

The parliamentary hearings were set up to probe the two firms’ activities in Chiadzwa, where there are still reports of human rights abuses and diamond smuggling. The firms have taken over mining the claim from the UK based African Consolidated Resources (ACR), which holds the legal title to mine there.

ACR was forced to abandon the site at gunpoint in 2006, and has since been fighting a protracted legal battle over the ownership rights. At least 30 kgs of diamonds at the centre of the ownership debate have since been handed to the Reserve Bank for safekeeping, after the Mbada firm tried to auction them off earlier this year.

The auction, which was halted at the last minute, apparently because the right officials had not been properly informed, is also set to be a major part of the parliamentary probe into the two firms’ activities. The parliamentary committee has now sent a final letter to the company directors instructing them to appear before the committee, failing which it will invoke the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act, possibly resulting in the contempt charges.

Meanwhile Finance Minister Tendai Biti has called for a complete overhaul of the laws governing the country’s diamond trade, saying all the mining leases that the government has awarded to firms in the Chiadzwa diamond field should be cancelled.

Biti said over the weekend that the leases awarded to Mbada and Canadile were done so ‘fraudulently’, explaining that the MDC’s national executive resolved to have all mining operations in Chiadzwa stopped until a clear law on diamond mining is established. He added that there is also no revenue entering the government’s coffers despite millions of diamonds being mined by the firms.

“There is nothing coming from Chiadzwa. There is nothing coming to the fiscus from Chiadzwa,” Biti said at a rally over the weekend.

“Chiadzwa represents the biggest find of alluvial diamonds in the history of mankind. In the interest of transparency, all mining licences, leases, special grants that have been given in Chiadzwa must be cancelled forthwith. All mining operations must cease. There must be a new diamond law in Zimbabwe,” Biti said.

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