Zimbabwe "Postpones" 600 000 Caract Diamond Auction
Harare, Zimbabwe, 07 January 2010
It was a breathtaking act of defiance and audacity.
Mbada Mining, a shadowy company operating in the notorious Chiadzwa diamond Fields in Eastern Zimbabwe, had simply announced, out of the blue, that it would hold a Chiadzwa diamond auction at Harare International Airport, where 300 000 carats of diamonds would be sold to the highest bidders.
Except, of course, they could not do that because Chiadzwa diamonds have been banned by the Kimberley Process, as I explained in a previous article on this blog.
Zimbabwe has now reportedly postponed (not canceled) that auction of diamonds from the Chiadzwa Diamond Fields, which would have been held today. I doubt that the word "postpone" is the correct one, but that is what the State would like us to believe.
It is certain that these diamonds will not be put up for sale at all until the KP decides to unban the diamonds from Marange.
Not that it makes any difference anyway, because the people in charge at company that announced the auction are so well-connected in Zimbabwe that it is scary. They have contacts all over the world from their previous dealings with legal and illegal diamond dealers when they operated out of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during Zimbabwe's intervention in the war in that country. By hook or by crook, they will sell those diamonds.
It is absolutely vital for you to understand that there never was any intention to auction these diamonds at all. This was only part of a well-calculated move to get the Kimberley Process to lift its ban on Zimbabwe diamonds from Marange. By announcing that the country was sitting on 600 000 carats of diamonds that they could not sell, the government of Zimbabwe hoped to light a fire under the KP people and also put pressure on the rest of the world, which is refusing to give Zimbabwe any significant mounts of money for development aid or balance of payment support.
The ploy is to overstate the "sanctions" slapped on Zimbabwe and hopefully get the sympathy of countries that were not convinced by Mugabe's argument up until now that there are sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Mugabe and his cohorts feel that the KP Team that was supposed to have come to Zimbabwe to oversee things and OK the trading of the blood diamonds from Chiadzwa is dragging its feet and trying to stall progress until ZANU PF and Mugabe are out of the picture. They are "imperialists bent on regime change"!
On offer today were going to be 300 000 carats of diamonds and these would have been sold, surprisingly, by Mbada Mining, in conjunction with the Mining Development Company of Zimbabwe. Mbada Mining, together with Canadille Mining, were recently shut down, prevented from doing any more mining at the Chiadzwa Diamond Fields by the Zimbabwe government. The reason given was ostensibly that they had not done an Environmental Impact Assessment Study/Report.
The question then, is how is this company able to sell these diamonds? They are a subsidiary of ZMDC, the government-owned company left operating at Chiadzwa. That should say it all: it means the only company that has really been banned from mining at Chiadzwa is the South African one, Canadille Mining.
This Chairman of Mbada Mining, a Mr Mhlanga, is a former Zimbabwe Defence Forces official who, according to sources, held the rank of air-vice marshal. That should tell you all you need to know about the secretive Mbada Mining.
The diamond auction would have taken place at the Old Hangar at Harare International Airport, which Mbada Mining has leased and turned into a diamond processing plant. Mbada also has bought some private jets, which are traveling between Zimbabwe and South Africa frequently, sometimes several times a day, leading even the State-owned media to raise questions about the nature and intent of these trips. It was suggested at the time that diamonds could be finding their way out of the country. This is more so when you take into account the widely acknowledged belief within Zimbabwe that Mbada is a vehicle for the powerful elements within the ruling party, Mugabe's ZANU PF.
Government was going to get more than 50% of the proceeds from today's auction, which had attracted buyers from Europe, South Africa, Asia and the United States. What they will do with the money when the auction eventually does go ahead is another matter entirely and you can rest assured that Zimbabwe's people will not benefit at all from this. Instead, new furniture is being planned, as are new vehicles and other "expenses and allowances" for traveling and so on.
Next week, another batch of 300 000 carats was scheduled to be put on auction again, according to the announcement from Mbada Mining.
The State media in Zimbabwe is now all full praise for Mbada, without exaplaining why thy are still operating when there is a standing order from Government for them to shut down operations until they do an Environmental Impact Assessment Study and submit the report to the Ministry of Mines.
Now we are told of the wonderful villages for workers that the companies have built. And the roads being built (doh - they need those to move their precious stones and to make sure that the Big Chiefs get to the mines without having their tires shredded like what is happening to mere mortals elsewhere in Zimbabwe, where potholes are now widening and deepening because of the rains.)
RELATED ARTICLES: Zimbabwe's Marange Diamonds Banned