An ambitious plan to ensure Zimbabwe generates more revenue from diamonds through value addition and beneficiation, has been set in motion while a massive global marketing of the gems will also be pursued from next year.
Critically, revenue from the sale of diamonds will be channelled towards development of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, shopping malls and supporting communities from which they operate with income generating projects.
This was said by Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) chief executive officer, Mr Mark Mabhudhu, in an exclusive interview with The Herald Finance & Business last week.
Mr Mabhudhu, a metallurgist who has spent about 30 years in the diamond industry across the world, is the founding ZCDC chief executive officer who was unceremoniously sacked in 2016.
He was recently reappointed and has lined up a number of activities aimed at transforming Zimbabwe’s diamond sector.
“This is a sign of confidence of course by the principal; they recognise that I can be an asset for the country, particularly for the diamond industry, in which I have spent nearly three decades in many other countries,” said Mr Mabhudhu.
“So I am confident that with this reappointment, I can make a difference to the big picture programmes that are currently being driven in the country particularly the US$12 billion mining industry vision by 2023 by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, which feeds into the 2030 Vision being championed by President Mnangagwa.
“We have to work extremely hard and smartly to make sure that these things are enabled.
“So I am happy that I am back and I can help in the area that I know best and can contribute with confidence and whenever there is a diamond anywhere, we will it out and make money for the country.”
Mr Mabhudhu said value addition was important as the raw diamonds sector was a US$10 billion to US$15 billion industry but revenues can rise to US$100 billion further down into jewellery manufacturing, cutting and polishing, among others.
Exploration will continue so that more gems are discovered, mined and processed for the benefit of citizens, with ambitions to open closed mines such as River Ranch in Beitbridge and operate new mines in areas such as Chimanimani.
“We cannot sit and be content with US$15 billion. So we have initiated a plan to start value addition from next year, where we will be cutting and polishing diamonds so that we don’t just sell raw diamonds.
“The President has spoken a lot about value addition and beneficiation, and we are connecting into that programme very strongly,” said Mr Mabhudhu.
One of ZCDC’s top of their priorities next year is embarking on an “aggressive international marketing programme” of local diamonds, with Dubai, Surat (India), Israel, being actively be considered.
Dubai is a huge market for diamonds with up to US$50 billion worth of business passing through the Dubai Diamond Exchange, while Antwerp, Belgium, is a US$55 billion market.
“So who are we not to want to play in that space? There is a premium in taking production there, you will have respectable people coming there.
“Some of them may not be keen to come to Zimbabwe but if we take our production, there will get good business.
“We have done that before and we got exceptionally good prices from those markets. So this is one of those initiatives that we are going to be doing next year.
We are keen to make sure the shareholder (Government) realises value out of all these programmes,” said Mr Mabhudhu.
He said diamond proceeds should not just be used to pay the company’s salaries, but feed into the major Government programmes such as developing the nation for the benefit of future generations.
ZCDC has a vision of becoming a world-class diamonds producer in the same league as De Beers, Alrosa and Rio Tinto, for the long-term benefit of the country.
But for the vision to succeed, Mr Mabhudhu said they have to do “certain things” that are consistent with a world-class performance, including achieving and exceeding expectations.
Since his reappointment, Mr Mabhudhu has visited the mine for induction or re-induction or reconnection with the businesses.
He said there were many challenges, some emanating from issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic that has literally brought the entire diamond industry to a screeching halt, as some buyers cannot travel due to restrictions.
ZCDC operations were temporarily stopped but have resumed in a phased approach, within the confines of the Covid-19 restrictions pronounced by Government.
Zimbabwe has a stockpile of diamonds, which it expects to start selling now that some restrictions are being relaxed but Mr Mabhudhu declined to indicate the quantities for professional reasons.