Increased reports out of Zimbabwe that the country's leader,and his praetorian military is amassing a secret treasure chest from the sale of illicit diamonds: Funds to finance political operations and to shore up military and election loyalty. Violence, poverty and political wrong doing have only increased since the 2006 discovery of the Marange [diamond] field.
The amount of funds reported misappropriated by Mugabe vary and have proved the basis for distracting arguments between political fractions. Regardless of who you speak to, allies or masses, the country's treasury is "$60 million shortchanged according to a budget report by the Finance Minister" (NYT; 12.14.11) Other irregular accounting abounds; one mining company believed to have mined $1.4 billion carats only reported mining $300 million carats in diamonds. This is a big discrepancy, yes? But the real concern should be the pattern of political abuse and military violence under the control of Mugabe --- this should ring "déjà vu" around the globe.
Following independence from Britain in 1980, Zimbabwe was an exemplary model of social progress --- but the country's once "showcase of education and health" is now in a state of ruin. According to the UN, Zimbabwe has the worst quality of living in the world. How does a nation with an 87% literacy rate and one of the most educated labor forces fall from grace (growth), while owning the largest diamond find in a century?
Mugabe is 87 years old, in a country where life expectancy is 57. He has been in power for three decades (democracy?). He and his diamond backed allies are posed to beating and cheating their way through another election. Elections by force and military funded academies are documented. (During the 2005 election voters were threatened with starvation or violence if they did not support Mugabe party) Now there are reports of weapon purchases from China by military owned companies."A sense of rightness will most usually mean all's well. A sense of wrongness . . . something is wrong." (Cameron)
November 2011, international diamond regulators lifted the 2009 sanction, now allowing Zimbabwe $2 billion in diamond trades, monies that could go a long way towards improving poverty and hunger. In the 80's the country designed a plan for growth and expansion that garnered results. Today the violence and injustice in Zimbabwe is a reminder of how "a jewel tirelessly built . . .has been shattered." (NYT)
With the country now able to trade diamonds legitimately, an alleged $60 million of misdirected funds in the hands of a government entity known for civilian violence, and $56 million identified in the country treasury, this seems like a good time for some "same page turning" --- an initiative towards visibility and accountability.
Visibility stops a lot of underhanded dealing. And while no man, woman, or country relishes the idea of opening up the past for scrutiny, we have all pulled-up short, backed the wrong guy, dragged our international feet, and reneged on promises; but if we grandfathered in past undoing's and power grabbing, and started with new accountability . . .
Maybe its time to put the $56 million parliament does have to good use. Strong citizenship hinders those who feed on weakness and deception. The people, laborers of Zimbabwe should be allowed to reclaim their independence and grow.Let them be the exemplary model for open diamond trading.
To do this they will need support and collaboration from well-meaning and fiscally minded entities that can keep their hands out of the cookie jar. But first they need an honest election and that wont happen without visible help.