President Robert Mugabe said plans to deliver prosperity to people in Manicaland through their diamond wealth were frustrated by ousted mining Chinese firms with whom he said he was still “upset” because they “duped him”.
He was addressing thousands of Zanu PF followers who braved the chilly weather to attend his ‘youth interface’ rally in Mutare’s Sakubva stadium Friday afternoon.
Mugabe said diamonds in Marange only benefited untrustworthy Chinese and Lebanese firms who failed to fulfill their pledges to disburse funds under the bungled Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust.
“I know here in Manicaland you are unhappy the Chinese failed to fulfil their promises to disburse monies under the community trust as did happen in Zvimba and Mhondoro but nothing came out.
“They even duped me into presenting a (dummy) cheque inscribed on a big board but they failed to fulfill the promise. I am also upset about that,” President Mugabe said while referring to a 2012 ceremony in which he presided over the launch of the controversial scheme in Manicaland.
Under the scheme, government was made to believe it would receive $50 million in total from the firms.
The companies, on the other hand, believed they were pledging a combined figure of $10 million.
There were no written agreements produced between the firms and the country’s indigenisation ministry to strengthen the pledges which were meant to develop communities in which they were extracting the minerals.
Mugabe said the diamond companies’ deceitful tendencies led to a fall-out with his government which later decreed that all the miners in Marange should disband and merge into a single conglomerate under the state’s firm control.
The President said his government was still unable to deliver the promised development in Manicaland because the affected firms sued government in attempts to reverse the enforced merger.
He continued: “So when it is us in charge of mining, we are going to fulfill that promise.
“Do not ever think we have forgotten about it. No. Even I am still angry that a big man like me was also sent displaying a big cheque which was not genuine.
“So we withdrew their mining rights; the Chinese, South Africans and Lebanese, the three companies, so that we take charge of diamond mining but this has taken us a long time for us to be in a position to be satisfied we are now mining.
“So people in Manicaland, I want to assure you that once we begin to mine diamonds and to sell them, we will not forget the promise that was made not by ourselves but by that from whom we have taken the power and reposite it into the ministry of our mines.”
The failure by the firms to honour pledges prompted the withdrawal of rights as independent mining concerns by government in what has brought renewed spotlight of the Zanu PF regime’s commitment to property and contractual rights.
The discovery of one of the world’s richest diamond deposits in Chiadzwa in 2006 was met with government euphoria with then mines minister Obert Mpofu saying the country had stumbled upon boundless wealth.
President Mugabe has said in previous interviews with the state media that up to $15 billion worth of diamonds could have been mined from the area with the bulk of the proceeds spirited away by cartels linked to the firms.
The country’s opposition has demanded the President’s resignation for failure to secure one of the biggest sources of wealth.