John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Diamonds Are Forever in Zimbabwe

by John Campbell
June 22, 2012

An illegal diamond dealer from Zimbabwe displays diamonds for sale in Manica, near the border with Zimbabwe, September 19, 2010. (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters) An illegal diamond dealer from Zimbabwe displays diamonds for sale in Manica, near the border with Zimbabwe, September 19, 2010. (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters)

The Zimbabwean finance minister, Tendai Biti, has complained that that the Zimbabwean-Chinese joint venture diamond mining company Anjin failed to remit revenue to his ministry from its operations in the Marange fields during the first quarter of the year. He raised the possibility that there is a “parallel government” that is the recipient of the revenue.

On June 17, in parliamentary testimony reported by the press, the deputy minister of mines confirmed that the Zimbabwean military, in partnership with the Chinese, owns Anjin. He said that Zimbabwe Defense Industries (ZDI) owns forty percent of the Anjin mining company. ZDI is a private company, but all of the shares are owned by the Ministry of Defense. The state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) also owns ten percent of Anjin. The remaining half of the shares are held by a Chinese military company, Chinese Defense Industries.

The suspicion must be that the Zimbabwean Ministry of Defense is the “parallel government” posited by the finance minister.

The current Zimbabwean government is a power-sharing arrangement between Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) cobbled together under pressure from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in the aftermath of Zimbabwe’s 2008 violent elections. The minister of finance is one of the founders of the MDC. The Ministry of Defense is controlled by Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. The minister of defense, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is widely seen as a leading candidate to succeed Robert Mugabe. It is not much of a stretch to see diamond money routed around the finance ministry bankrolling Mnangagwa’s political agenda in the run up to national elections.

As of now, Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai will be the leading presidential candidates. Mugabe, elderly and ailing, wants new elections soon. Tsvanagirai, the MDC, and the SADC want elections delayed until a new constitution is ratified and a new voters roll is compiled. Earlier in the spring, Biti said the government in fact did not have enough money to hold early polls. ZANU-PF dismissed his statement with contempt. It remains to be seen whether Mugabe will have his way. However, whenever Mugabe leaves the political scene, Mnangagwa will have a powerful, if disputed, claim to the presidency.

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