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PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has revealed that last week he met one of the most influential individuals in global diamond trade, former chairman of Anglo-American and De Beers Nicky Oppenheimer.
De Beers was involved in prospecting activities at the Marange diamonds fields for about 15 years while looting the gems under the guise of sampling allegedly.
The two met as the country was finalising preparations for its first local diamond auction later this month and as government is considering consolidating more than seven mines operating at Marange into just two big players.
Mugabe said he and Oppenheimer discussed the fate of the Oppenheimer family’s vast land across the country which included six ranches totaling 45 330 hectares.
“I was with Nicky, about a week ago here, he has land here and he comes to his farm once in a while. He said I normally wear three hats, the De Beers Diamonds hat, then the Anglo Gold hat and the Oppenheimer family hat, but today I am not wearing any of the other two I first mentioned,” Mugabe said at the official opening of Zimbabwe’s second Diamond Conference in Harare yesterday.
“I am just wearing the family hat and we are discussing our estate, which was founded in 1935 when my late great grandfather or was it grandfather who was in Nazi Germany wanted to get away from (the Germany leader Adolf) Hitler so he came here and founded this farm.”
There have been accusations top government officials personally benefitted from DeBeers’ operations in Marange resulting in successive extensions of its prospecting license.
Former Mines minister Obert Mpofu has publicly accused DeBeers of looting more than 100 000 in diamond ore from the country over the 15-year period, allegations the company deny. Mpofu said De Beers did not remit anything to government saying it was still to ascertain whether what it collected from Marange were real diamonds or not.
However, Zimbabwe started commercial mining in the area in 2009 with one of the companies, Mbada Diamonds, having raked in US$1 billion in revenues as at December 2013 from diamond sales.
Mugabe said Oppenheimer’s father confirmed as early as 1980 there were diamond deposits in Zimbabwe although he said they were of no commercial value.