“Gold To Zimbabwe What Oil Is To Nigeria, Can Turn Around Our Fortunes”: Not Whilst US1.2bn Per Annum Lost To Smugglers
28 February 2021
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By Patrick Guramatunhu- On 3 March 2016 President Mugabe admitted that the nation had lost $15 billion worth of diamonds because of the looting and plunder in Marange and Chiadzwa.

“This kind of plunder must immediately make Zimbabweans pass a vote of no confidence in Mugabe and his government,” commented Ken Yamamoto, a Japanese researcher, at the time.

“If this theft does not cause Zimbabweans to demand that he resign, then nothing else will. In that case, going forward, Zimbabweans must just be left to their own devices and the donors currently feeding the population must just take their efforts to other countries. The country cannot be helped. And no more of this nonsense that Zimbabweans are the most literate people in Africa.”

Zimbabweans never demanded that Mugabe and his regime must resign. Mugabe, for his part, never arrested even one of the diamond swindlers and never recovered even one dollar of the US15 billion. 

Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe following the November 2017 military coup, vowed “zero tolerance on corruption” and thus tacitly acknowledging that corruption was indeed still rampant. It is now over three years since the coup and he too has yet to arrest one swindler and recover one swindled dollar. 

Indeed, the looting in Marange and Chiadzwa did not stop with Mugabe’s admission; it continued. Patrick Chinamasa, then Minister of Finance, told in 2017 parliament that government was receiving 1/6 of the expected revenue from the diamond mining. 

The diamond looters had mining concessions that allowed them to keep their operations and earnings a secret. The late Edward Chindori Chininga revealed in a 2012 parliamentary report that the miners were not keeping any record of the quality and quantity of diamonds, to whom the diamonds were sold and for how much, who were the partners and how the spoils were shared out, etc. The mining concessions were a licence to loot and the GNU cabinet had issued these concession; this was all above board. This was institutionalised looting. Period!

Since Mnangagwa took over similar licences to loot have been issued in other areas including gold and platinum mining, sourcing and distribution of fuel, in agriculture and even in the sourcing of corona virus materials. 

Fast forward to the present. 

“We don’t need anyone’s money as we can do it on our own. Sometimes it’s just the mindset and belief to achieve that,” Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Dr John Mangudya told Business Times a few days ago. 

“Like what oil is to Nigeria, gold is to Zimbabwe. The precious mineral alone has the potential to turn around the country’s fortunes.”

It is estimated that US$1.2 billion worth of gold is smuggled out of the country every year. 

Just to put the looted diamonds and gold into perspective; the cost of long delayed Batoka Gorge Hydropower Project is US$ 3 billion. Think of the project as a second Kariba Dam and thus adding another 666 MW to the national grid. The money from these two minerals alone in a year would have paid for Batoka Gorge years ago and saved the nation billions of dollars in power imports and the all too common load shedding. 

Zimbabwe is in a dire economic situation. The country’s agricultural sector, the driving engine of the economy, collapsed following the farm seizures and took the rest of the economy down with it. Unemployment has soared to dizzying heights of 90% and most basic services such as education and health care have collapsed after decades of being starved of funds. 

50%, at least, of the Zimbabwe population now live in abject poverty, i.e. they cannot afford one decent meal a day much less other basic necessities of life such as education for their children and health care. 

Corona virus has hit the wealthy nations hard but it was crashed the poor nation. The wealthy nations are coughing blood and the impoverished nations are burying their dead and will be doing this for years to come! 

Most developed nations will have vaccinated enough of the people to achieve head-immunity by end of this year. Middle income nations, including SA and one or two Sub-Sahara African countries, are expected to reach head-immunity by the end of next year, 2022. Poor countries like Zimbabwe will not reach head immunity until 2023! 

The task of economic recovery will only start in earnest after the corona virus threat has been dealt with. And so the delay in achieving head immunity will only make the task that much harder and take that much longer. 

Like I said, poor nations will be burying their dead for many, many more moons to come! 

Give the grime reality Zimbabweans are facing one would have thought that the RBZ Governor’s admission, reiterating Mugabe’s 2016 admission, that Zimbabwe is a wealthy nation if only it would end the criminal waste of her natural resources; would finally galvanise Zimbabweans to demand that Zanu PF resign. Sadly, no such demands have been made. Governor Mangudya’s admission was just water off a duck’s back. 

However Ken Yamamoto’s prediction that “Zimbabweans must just be left to their own devices and the donors currently feeding the population must just take their efforts to other countries,” has largely come true. Most donors have walked away from helping Zimbabwe. 

“Massive problems remain, our public health and education systems are a mess. Salaries are too low to retain key staff and standards have declined. The only solution to these problems is more money and here we face numerous problems,” wrote Mr Eddie Cross, a former MDC leaders and, until a week ago was on the RBZ Monetary Policy Committee together with Dr Mangudya. 

“We have to grow our economy – we have laid the foundations for growth in the past two years but remain isolated politically and diplomatically and the financial sanctions on us under ZIDERA (the US system) limits our ability to tap into the global financial system and to borrow on lines of credit for our private sector. A growing economy needs much more money than a shrinking one. This was not an issue before, now it is critical.”

Of course, Mr Cross is aware of the rampant corruption in Zimbabwe and is one of those naive and gullible individuals who expect the country to thrive regardless of the regime’s insatiable greed and criminal waste of resources.

“Even though the international Community has committed itself to the provision of health care to the poor and the principle of universal education for children, we receive virtually nothing from international agencies or the so called “Development Partners.” In fact, the IMF even denied us aid to deal with the Covid-19 crisis,” continued Mr Cross. Confirming Ken Yamamoto’s prediction of donors walking out. 

It is very hard, indeed near impossible, to help those who would not lift a finger to help themselves!