Harare – A Zimbabwean court on Friday overruled President Robert Mugabe’s directive ordering gem mining companies in the country out of diamond fields in Marange, saying Mines Minister Walter Chidakwa has been in contempt of a court order allowing the miners to secure their equipment at the mine sites.
Zimbabwe’s diamond mining industry has been dogged by controversy amid claims that the diamond mining companies are looting resources. The country has now said that it is merging all diamond miners in the Marange area into one company, in which the state will own half the shares.
READ: Mugabe: Diamond smuggling cost Zim economy $13bn
High Court judge Justice Joseph Mafusire ruled there had been non-compliance on the part of Chidakwa, the police and the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).
He ruled on February 29 that the diamond mining companies be allowed back to secure their assets on the mines, pending finalisation of their application to be allowed to pay for licences that had expired and which had prompted the government to cancel their special grants for diamond mining.
“I am satisfied that there was non-compliance of my court order. There was no will on the part of the respondents (the mines minister, police and ZMDC) to comply with my order of February 29,” Mafusire said in his ruling.
The High Court of Zimbabwe has now allowed the diamond mining companies back on their sites until March 8 to secure their company assets. Should the mines minister fail to comply, the court will rule in favour of the diamond miners’ application to be allowed to pay for the licences and continue with operations.
Last month Chidakwa said Marange Resources had accepted government proposals to merge diamond mining in Zimbabwe, while GMC and Jinan decided against the proposals.
He said Mbada Diamonds and Anjin had been dragging their feet and had “not formally made their decision” while investors in the joint venture companies Dradwell and OFECC had made “unilateral submissions to the government opposing consolidation” proposals.
“In the event that (respondents) do not comply on March 8, I will rule the application (by the diamond miners) as default,” the High Court judge said. Fin24 exclusively reported on February 23 that the diamond miners had initiated legal action against the government's decision to force them out of their mines following Chidakwa’s announcement the previous day.
Mugabe said in an interview on state television on Thursday night that Zimbabwe had “not received much (money) from the diamond industry at all" despite previous complaints by former finance minister Tendai Biti that revenue from diamond mining was being looted.
The gem miners in Marange have partnerships with state companies such as the ZMDC and accounting for diamond revenue has always been problematic, according to Treasury officials.
"Our people... have not been able to see or hear what was going on and lots of swindling, smuggling has taken place and the companies that have been mining virtually robbed us of our wealth. We have decided that this area should be a monopoly area and only the state should be able to do mining," Mugabe said in the interview.