Zimbabweans have been talking about the country losing $15 billion in diamond revenue for more than two years now. Even Parliament keeps touting the figure as it investigates the country's missing diamonds. Presidential spokesman George Charamba tried to explain that the country had never lost such revenue and former President Robert Mugabe just blurted the figure out of the blue. Does the fact that Mugabe gave the figure make it correct? Zimbabwe’s fact checking organisation, Zimfact, looks into the issue.
During his 92nd birthday interview with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) aired on March 5 2016, former president, Robert Mugabe, made the following claim:
“We have not received much from the diamond industry at all,” he said.
“Not much by way of earnings. I don’t think we have exceeded $2 billion or so and yet we think that well over 15 or more billion dollars have been earned in that area.
“So where have our carats been going? The gems? You see, there has been quite a lot of secrecy in handling them and we have been blinded ourselves. That means our people who we expected to be our eyes and ears have not been able to see or hear what was going on and lots of swindling, smuggling has taken place and the companies that have been mining have virtually, I want to say, robbed us of our wealth. That is why we have decided that this area should be a monopoly area and only the State should be able to do the mining in that area.”
Given the lingering suspicion that revenues from the Marange diamond fields had been looted by connected politicians, Mugabe’s claim was readily accepted and even assumed the level of a major confession.
But does the claim stand up to scrutiny?
Geologists working for global diamond mining giant, De Beers, are credited with discovering the Marange alluvial diamond deposits around 2000.
Thereafter, De Beers, through its prospecting company Kimberlitic Searches, acquired two Exclusive Prospecting Orders (EPO) for Marange in the early 2000s.
By the time the EPO expired in 2006, De Beers had taken a decision not to exploit the deposits.
In June 2006, the Marange exploration rights were taken up by African Consolidated Resources.
The company unsuccessfully sought to exploit the Marange deposits in a joint venture with the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC). Instead, the ZMDC laid claim to the entire claims initially granted to ACR.
A court battle ensued, which resulted in ACR’s rights being upheld.
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