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Zimbabwe: $15bn diamond heist by Chinese company could hurt relations

By Nqobile Bhebhe
Posted on Monday, 7 March 2016 11:55

Mugabe, in a televised interview last week said the gems where looted over several years and pointed fingers at the diamond mining companies, one of the biggest being Chinese company, Anjin.

the reports showed that diamond mines were producing over $2 billion per year but we were getting nothing

“We have not received much from the diamond industry at all. I don’t think we have exceeded $2 billion, yet we think more than $15 billion has been earned,” the veteran Zimbabwean leader said. “So, where have our carats been going?”

Days before Mugabe made the allegations, Mines minister Walter Chidakwa ordered all diamond mining companies to cease operations and this could be a sore point for the Chinese, who insist that in the event of a dispute, it should be solved diplomatically.

China is one of the few countries willing to invest in the southern African country, which, ironically, has been given a wide berth by western nations because of lack of laws protecting property rights.

Analysts say Mugabe’s claims and moves to shut down the diamond mining companies could damage relations with China.

Government officials have moved swiftly to downplay a potential rift.

“I don’t think it has affected any of the relations adversely at all, I don’t think so. I told President Xi Jinping that we were not getting much from the company and we didn’t like it anymore in this country, so we wanted it to go back, I told him that, here in this house,” Mugabe said in defence of the move to force the companies out.

Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said it was mischievous for people to conclude that the investment decision of one or two companies would affect several other deals signed by the African nation and the Asian giant.

Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping said small differences would not affect the bond between the two friends. “That does not affect this relationship. We respect the move the government of Zimbabwe has taken,” he explained.

But former Finance minister Tendai Biti said during his tenure he alerted Mugabe of the looting, but he gave him a cold shoulder. “When I was in government, I gave him the figures, I gave him the statistics,” he said.

“I gave him the secret reports produced in Brussels and the reports showed that diamond mines were producing over $2 billion per year but we were getting nothing.”

In turn, ordinary Zimbabweans are wondering if Mugabe knew of the looting, and why there had not yet been a single arrest.

When the diamond fields were first discovered they were seen as the magic bullet to solve Zimbabwe’s economic woes, but years later, the country has shown nothing for it.

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