MUTARE – Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando (pictured) has revealed that construction of the Mutare Diamond Cutting and Polishing Centre is expected to start sometime this year.
Government had projected to commence construction of the gemology park early last year having completed drawings for the technology centre, secured seed capital and construction site in Fern Valley.
Chitando said the project had been delayed as it was awaiting Cabinet approval and Presidential pronouncement, which have now all been secured.
“It should be noted that Cabinet approved the proposal end of November last year. And you also have to understand that there were two things that had to shape the trajectory of the project. The first one is the diamond policy and the second one was Cabinet approval and pronouncement by the President that construction will commence this year,” he said during a telephone interview.
However, natural resources watchdogs cited political discontents as the major stumbling block.
The Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) – a spearheading partner which was on the fore front updating and outlining the course of the project had suddenly taken a back seat.When reached for comment ZCDC chief executive officer Moris Mpofu said the Mines Ministry was better positioned to respond.
However, Mpofu early last year confirmed that all preliminary developments had been done. “Land has already been allocated through the School of Mines at Fern Valley by the Mutare City. I think about 8 hectares. Drawings for the technology centre has already been done and ZCDC has already set aside seed capital to do the ground breaking and start the construction of the gemology park in Mutare,” he said then.
Centre for Research and Development (CRD) said the sudden backseat by ZCDC should be taken seriously.
“Construction of the gemology park was supposed to commence last year. But there appears to be lack of political will. ZCDC was playing a central role in the project and they clearly outlined their vision towards the centre but now they are taking a back seat and sort of handing over to the Mines Ministry unlike before. So I strongly sense serious political discontentment regarding this project,” said CRD director James Mupfumi. Mupfumi added that chances are high that government will relocate the centre back to Harare.
The government was pressured by natural resources lobby groups to construct the centre near the resource after its initial intention to have the centre in Harare met with widespread condemnation. Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) also indicated that some political stalwarts within government might be reluctant to expedite the project as value addition will close loopholes for looting.
“It doesn’t make economic sense for some top officials to have diamond value addition. Most are doing well with rough diamonds because there is rampant looting in exports of undeclared raw gems. Value addition deprives them of looting,” said CNRG executive director Farai Maguwu.
Zimbabwe diamond sector has experienced rampant looting and siphoning of diamonds with the involvement of senior government and political stalwarts.