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Ex-ZMDC boss grilled in Parliament over looting of diamonds

FORMER Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) boss Goodwills Masimirembwa was grilled by the Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament this Monday for ineffectively managing the Marange diamonds.

The committee, chaired by Norton MP Temba Mliswa, wanted to know how diamonds were extensively looted under his watch including the $15 billion in revenues mentioned by former president Robert Mugabe and some $2 billion annually forecast by former Mines minister Obert Mpofu.

Masimirembwa initially dismissed the claims arguing that the Marange fields had low quality alluvial diamonds which could not have been worth that much.

“No exploration was done of Marange diamond fields. People went in there just basically searching for alluvial diamonds which were on the surface,” he said.

“There is no scientific, no geological report on proven reserves of diamonds at Marange diamond fields. Those were wishes.

“This is why today we say diamonds just disappeared. They don’t just disappear, it’s because there is no geological report.

“When they alluvial diamonds got depleted, we then went into a panic mode and began making all sorts of allegations, throw out all sorts of wild figures. Mining is based on geological reports not on wishful thinking.”

Mliswa queried what ZMDC’s role when mining was being conducted in an informal like manner despite the involvement of a well-constituted government body.

“You have clearly said it was about ‘zvatawana ipapo (what we got on that particular day) so chachingori chikorokoza ka? (it was merely artisanal mining?). What were you selling in the joint ventures,” said Mliswa.

After aggressive questions from the legislators, Masimirembwa changed his story to say no diamonds were looted during his three-year tenure at the diamond institution but admitted they could have been looted before there was security at Marange diamond fields.

He said there was no exploration done, adding that all joint ventures entered into at that time were based on the “low hanging alluvial diamonds”.

“And what we were offering to the investors was potential with a view to explore and mine kimberlite after alluvial diamonds were depleted,” said the past ZMDC boss.

MP Prosper Mutseyami asked Masimirembwa to defend himself against the idea that he was refuting looting of Marange diamonds because he was part of the scandal.

“There was $6 million which we heard got into your pockets under unclear circumstances,” said the legislator.

“All these questions will make it clear to us if $15 billion wasn’t lost. We will also understand why all this energy in dismissing looting when the whole country resonates including those who appeared before you that the diamonds were looted.”

Another MP, Simon Chidhakwa, weighed in saying Masimirembwa could not dismiss the possibility of diamonds looting when he admitted he heard of bases in Mozambique set up by Lebanese for Marange diamonds and when Mbada, in 2014 alone, declared a $1 billion turnover.

“It is common knowledge that prior to government moving in, there was chaos in Marange. If you say $15 billion disappeared that time I couldn’t say no but all I want to know is how you make the computation,” Masimirembwa insisted.

“When I got into ZMDC, it’s impossible that didn’t happen. Whilst there could have been here and there illegal activities taking place, certainly the security situation at Marange was far better.”

A number of the mines which partnered government that time are on the externalisation list released by president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government this Monday.