Harare: Zimbabwean opposition politician Innocent Gonese has said that Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu PF party needs to stop running the country’s diamond sector “like a mafia where everyone involved in the management of the gems is a thief.”
The comments were made at a public forum organized by the Southern African Political and Economic Series (SAPES Trust) in Mutare, reported the New Zimbabwe.
Gonese urged the Zanu PF to follow the example of its neighboring countries including Botswana and Angola, which are using their natural resources to empower their citizens. “Botswana has diamonds and they have foreign currency reserves in abundance. Angola has oil and its citizenry has benefitted from the resource,” Gonese said, adding that in Zimbabwe “the diamonds are gone but people are still poor.”
Gonese criticized the government for not having instituted a clear policy to help Zimbabwe’s citizens as soon as diamonds were discovered in the country. He also criticized the lack of transparency and openness inherent in the system. “There has been opaqueness on the issuance of licenses to operators in Marange. There should be transparency on how the government issues out licenses to investors in the extractive sector,” the newspaper reported.
But Gonese also criticized the diamond companies, accusing them of not doing enough to help the people. He asserted that mining companies are obliged to ensure that villagers affected by their activities receive adequate compensation.
“Villagers are wallowing in abject poverty. There were no proper agreements on the issue of compensation. We should desist from gentlemen’s agreements and put in place appropriate laws and policies that make companies accountable,” said Gonese.
In retaliation to Gonese’s accusations, the New Zimbabwe reported that Zanu PF sympathizers deflected criticism away from the ruling party and instead laid the blame on international mining companies such as De Beers.
This was refuted by the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA), Shamiso Mtisi, who said De Beers was a private company and should not be used as a justification by those who are looting the country’s resources.
“Resources belong to the people. There is nothing criminal in asking for accountability…When a government is not transparent it is acting against its own interests. Mistrust will continue,” said Mtisi.