PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa in September stopped a private diamond sale surreptitiously organised by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) in conjunction with a key government ministry after receiving an intelligence tip-off suggesting the sale was meant to build a war chest for his internal Zanu PF rivals, it has emerged.
The revelations come amid intricate political manoeuvres in the ruling party where Mnangagwa is facing a serious challenge from his ambitious deputy, Constantino Chiwenga.
On the other hand, a third faction is said to be rooting for a powerful minister – viewed as the de facto prime minister – who played a critical role in the November 2017
The minister is regarded by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) as posing a “realistic and growing threat” to Mnangagwa’s stranglehold on power.
However, the minister is also closely linked to the military faction led by Chiwenga.
Official sources said the private sale was organised after security officials rang alarm bells over the security of the diamonds as vaults in Chiadzwa were overflowing because they had not been transported to Harare for safe-keeping since April.
Storage facilities in Harare are also said to have become inadequate because buyers have not been able to fly to Harare this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Security lapses in Chiadzwa were exposed last year when substantial quantities of diamonds were stolen from Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) vaults in Chiadzwa by men in military gear after they overpowered the company’s security staff and held them hostage movie-style before making good their escape with valuable gemstones.
“There is a major security concern about diamonds because, as we speak, the vaultsare full and more of them are coming in since operations are going on. There has not been any buyer since the beginning of the year largely because of the travel restrictions owing to coronavirus and so the vaults are
filling up,” a security source said.
“So what happened is that during the months of August and September, there was an attempt to conduct a private sale of the diamonds instead of the normal open auction. This was organised by the MMCZ with the help of the influential ministry,” a source said.
“The ministry’s role mainly was to invite private buyers and it was reported that the minister used his long-term connections in the diamond industry to identify buyers…Six buyers had agreed to fly to Harare from
Dubai but they ended up aborting the mission after a report was filed to the OPC (Office of the President and Cabinet) disclosing the underhand dealing.”
According to the source, sharp disagreements arose among the local parties to the deal over the sharing of proceeds, resulting in CIO agents seconded to the MMCZ letting the cat out of the bag by reporting to
“They first raised real concerns about the disadvantages of conducting a private sale, the biggest of which is that you sell the mineral at low prices.
“This is mainly because buyers can collude to bid lower and settle things later or, as was apparently the case in this deal, they can conspire with the local people involved in the process to allow low-rate sales to proceed for a handsome kickback.
“For instance, a diamond worth US$100 can be deliberately underpriced and sold for as low as US$30 and those involved will share the spoils,” an official source said.
“And so when this was discovered, there were disagreements with some people asking ‘why conduct a private sale?’, obviously after discovering that they had been left out of the deal.
“An intelligence report was then made to the President, who stopped the sale and, in the end, the six buyers did not come.
“However, there were other interesting details in the report suggesting that the minister was behind the idea. It appears that there is a very strong belief in the security sector that he, too, harbours presidential ambitions and is building his own political power base. It is common belief now in the CIO that he is preparing himself to be president by 2028, although there are also some who believe he thinks he can snap it in the next general election in 2023.
“So the gist of the matter is that the man lacks the necessary social base in Zanu PF and they are convinced he is maneuvering in the diamond sector to build a war chest with which to launch an epoch-making political assault. This is the information which got to the President, which largely explains why he had to act very fast.”
Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando did not answer calls on his mobile phone. He also did not respond to text and WhatsApp messages despite having read them. Presidential spokesman George Charamba was not reachable.
MMCZ managing director Tongai Muzenda’s phone was not being answered. He did not respond to messages sent to him.