MMCZ, ZCDC fight over control of diamond sales

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TINASHE MAKICHI

A tussle over the control of proceeds from the country’s multi-million dollar diamond industry has emerged between Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) and state-owned miner Zimbabwe Consolidation Diamond Corporation (ZCDC amid fears that the treasury is being prejudiced of revenue, it has been established.

Information gathered by Business Times shows that there has been a turf war between the two entities with each party throwing accusation and counter-accusations of meddling into the marketing of the precious stones.

MMCZ is an exclusive agent for marketing and selling of all the minerals produced in Zimbabwe except silver and gold. It was established through an Act of Parliament (MMCZ Act Chapter 21:04) while ZCDC is a diamond mining company wholly-owned by government with mining operations in Manicaland.

ZCDC was formed following the March 2015 following Government’s decision to consolidate all diamond mining companies in Zimbabwe. Its main objective was to ensure that there would be transparency, accountability and optimal commercial exploitation and marketing of the country’s diamonds However, it has now emerged that senior officials at ZCDC are now being accused of directing orders to MMCZ and also determining the buyers which the state minerals marketer is supposed to engage.

Such practice is against standard procedure but when contacted for comment, ZCDC finance director and acting CEO Charles Gambe told Business Times that as a producer, the company is oftentimes approached by buyers, whom they refer to MMCZ.

This has however unsettled some officials at the MMCZ, prompting some government units to cast bright lights on the goings on in the sector.

Efforts to get a comment from MMCZ chief executive Masimba Chandavengerwa were fruitless while Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando could not be reached for comment.

Well-placed sources told this publication that there are underhand dealings involving senior ZCDC officials and illegal diamond dealers specifically of Lebanese nationality.

Allegations are that Gambe at one time had a clash with officials at MMCZ and ZCDC sorting house for allegedly trying to circumvent the proper diamond selling processes through imposing a Lebanese national to get diamonds without a licence.

“One of the senior executives at ZCDC (name withheld) met a Lebanese national who approached ZCDC and submitted his proposal to wash diamonds and that Lebanese guy has been involved in illegal buying of diamonds in the country for some time now,” said the source.

It is alleged that the same senior executive rented a premise in Mutare for the Lebanese national in addition to the freedom he gave him to choose diamonds he wanted for cutting, polishing and then export them to Belgium and get them certified at HRD.

It is said that after selling the diamonds the ZCDC official would get a 20 percent cut.

“The deal was struck and for the scandal to come to light, the same senior executive called MMCZ insulting officials after his instructions for the Lebanese to get all the diamonds he wanted at MMCZ and ZCDC sort house were frustrated. The Sort House at ZCDC had refused to release diamonds while MMCZ also refused to budge citing the failure by the Lebanese to produce his buying licence,” said the source.

A source at ZCDC said the Lebanese known as Hussein Robai in diamond circles has been under detention by the Immigration pending deportation after he
conned some of his local partners in Zimbabwe. It is understood that by last night he had been released.

The sources added that Hussein is not necessarily a buyer but he is a polisher and he approached ZCDC with the idea of removing green skin on diamonds, so that they could fetch better value on the market.

“The Lebanese approached ZCDC and no agreement was reached but rather the idea was around the Lebanese given a test to see if he was capable to execute the task.

“After MMCZ refused to deal with Robai, the deal could not materialise, a situation which saw the Lebanese clashing with some of the local companies involved in the diamonds value chain leading to his arrest,” said the source.

Over 60 houses in the leafy suburbs of Mutare are alleged to have been converted into illegal diamond trading centres by a syndicate of foreigners who have been getting the precious stone from illegal artisanal miners.

The diamond trading syndicates are said to have devised sophisticated methods and strategies to evade law enforcement agencies. The converted houses are alleged to be located in the leafy suburbs of the city mainly in Greenside, Morningside, Palmerstone and Murambi.

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