Monday, May 31, 2010
by Nathaniel Manheru
I HAVE never felt this proud to be a Zimbabwean! On Wednesday the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Mines ministry, took an unprecedented decision to ban diamond exports. All diamond exports. At face value, this sounds quite contradictory; in fact a monumental shot in own foot.
Is Government in fact validating the censure from the Kimberley Certification Process? Is the Government imposing sanctions on itself? Just what is to be achieved by this seemingly baffling self-immolating measure?
King Solomon’s Mines
Let us lay the facts. Zimbabwe has three known diamond deposits: Beitbridge, Zvishavane and Marange. The rumour mill cites more sites, more sites than Haggard’s King Solomon ever dreamt of, but I leave all that to excavators of forensic gossip.
Of the three, Marange has the fame — notoriety for some. Which epithet one prefers to use to describe Chiadzwa frankly does not quite matter to me. After all, both epithets involve being well known — admittedly to different ends — in which case there cannot be a Chinese wall between them.
How on earth can one word encompass and wall a diamond phenomenon such as is represented by Chiadzwa? Even from Western media reports, Chiadzwa is Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe is Chiadzwa! You wake up to reports that a deposit has been found in a totally different place, millions of strides away from sites already known. Tomorrow, it is another place, the next day another, until the pattern makes nonsense of place and geology. Today Marange is no longer a bounded place. It is anywhere where diamonds are. Its rich markers by way of that magically ridged and refulgent stone, keep moving, moving and moving.
The treasures of baboon country
Yesterday it was in Ishe Chiadzwa’s dust bowl: land historically dismissed as baboon land, completely written off as good-for-nothing land where any crop fails, indeed where even the cactus abandons all hope and ingenuity, to succumb, to wilt in Chiadzwa’s furnace-heat. Then with each sun or day that cut the skies, the precious marker migrates outward, from the dusty lands of Chiadzwa: up the red hills and ranges which keep Marange leeward-dry, which keep luscious Chipinge hidden from a hurrying passerby, down, down the valleys of succulent bananas, pineapples and apples, well along the undulating outcrops and plains of wattle, tea and coffee; then down, down, up, up, down, up, down until you reach a beautiful piece of lush, flat land snugly trapped between mountain ranges, a serene piece of land abutting Mozambique, mis-named Charleswood by one Roy Bennett or those of his line, apparently in a frenzy of instinctive nostalgia for a Britain they never saw or inhabited, a Britain of imagination, but whose powerful pull tugged their navels nevertheless. Oh Albion! Amazing Albion, beckoning, baiting, and now battering for your own!
Who is in Rio?
The Saudi-based Aujan Group, registered as Rani Investments and trading as River Ranch, is exploiting the Beitbridge deposit, all for the wealth and glory of this Arab family and its ornamenting local friends. Murowa is exploiting the Zvishavane deposits, all for the wealth and glory of Rio Tinto. Except we have two Rios, busily tinting our diamonds to stratospheric opulence. There is this Rio Tinto International: thoroughbred Australian, commanding 77,8 percent of the diamond deposits in Zvishavane. Then there is this other Rio Tinto obscenely surnamed "Zimbabwe". Urubvurubvu zvarwo "controlling" the remaining 22,2 percent.
This baby of complex parentage
Chiadzwa is a tall story. Or is it a very short story with a tall rendition? Like all things in this country, it was originally Zimbabwean. Then it became De Beers by prospecting right, a right saddling on that of colonial conquest. Yes, the same De Beers of the Oppenheimers who control world diamond trade, much of their clout deriving from the unchecked scooping they have been doing immemorially in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and DR Congo. Here, they came in as Anglo-American Corporation, and did many things, again largely unchecked until 2000 when the Third Chimurenga broke out, and about now. De Beers could afford to park Marange, afford to put it into mining abeyance. Why not? The native here was not a miner. The native here was not curious, least of all demanding of his rights. After all his sense of love, of making that impalpably evanescent, stupid emotion we know by that name, was never to get it symbolised by the glitter of a mere stone the world was crazy about, the world named diamond and sang as forever. The native knew better and reckoned love as salt, hoes, cows and finally Rhodesian pounds and dollars, in that order, in that time. The only time he looked down to mother Earth, was to offer libation to keep the tempers of the gods happy or at least benign. Or to till the land, or to enrich it by way of foul, waste matter. Not un-often, he shat on gold and diamonds.
Chasing the elusive seam
So there was no danger, which is why from 1946 which is about when the diamond fields were claimed, until less than a decade ago. Before then, Chiadzwa lay quiet and fallow, only tickled by drunken footsteps of good wailing villagers from machwara, a beer party. Meanwhile, man and machine were boring deeper and deeper for De Beers: in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, DR Congo and even as far afield as Sierra Leone. In the case of South Africa — all along treated as a horn of plenty — the boring went deeper and deeper into the earth’s crust, as greed frantically pursued the ever elusive, precious seam. I hear those who go down these tunnels nowadays begin to feel the warmth of molten lava right at the core of the earth’s crust. They now need lumps of frozen oxygen earth-dropped to them so they do not suffocate. They have travelled miles and miles downward into the earth and can no longer bring easy profits to De Beers.
Nature’s riddle, nature’s conspiracy
To keep afloat, De Beers begun revisiting the backyard, principally Chiadzwa, in order to offset the high costs of Jozi. Here nature conspired to our ruin. Zimbabwe has no seamed diamonds. It has alluvial deposits whose origins are a matter of inconclusive conjecture. Were we once one giant sea/ocean bed on which fuming waters of this great deep vomited all manner of matter, precious diamonds included? Are we the underside of the earth, spat to the surface by angry gods breathing leaping tongues of red fire and brimstone? Enraged gods whose great anger took generations to subside, to present spurts of hot saliva we now know as Hot Springs? That the enraged gods spewed hot ash that created the red-ringed hills and ranges you see from across Birchenough Bridge, ashes that broadcast divine displeasure right up to Charleswood Farm? Or do we have seams further upstream, whose diamonds were then washed downstream to settle and deposit in Chiadzwa? Except Chiadzwa is too rugged for sediment to settle, and is only served by one river which meanders well away from the fields — the shy, subterranean Save which no longer roars and whose glory is mere legend and vast, writhing sand fields of barrenness?
Rich pickings, unconcerned witnesses
I said nature conspired. It did. When De Beers decided to turn to Chiadzwa, it wanted to exploit the finite resource (alluvial diamonds are very finite) quietly, undisturbed by slogans or Zimra papers. De Beers found nature quite permissive. You did not need to dig, to spew mountains of fresh, red earth. You only needed to bend low, scratch the back of the earth and pick. De Beers picked, picked, picked in seeming desperate solitude, unnoticed, or noticed by the unconcerned. For a long time, it never woke up the sleeping. Until villagers wondered why the white man was leaving the cool eaves of the city for the baking heatstroke of this desolate piece of nature’s worst curse. And each time the white man came — they noticed — he bent, bent and bent, always picking glistening pebbles in which they themselves saw no other value than to decorate — not love, not amorous relationships — but walls of dagga to make them less dank and dreary. With these pebbles, their walls flickered bright to the gladness of all hearts that passed by.
As Government slept . . .
By which time the usually slothfully recumbent Government was beginning to wink from a deep slumber, to hazily notice. It took many moons before sleep finally evaporated from the languid eyes of Government, finally enabling Mr Government to have a clear sight of what was going on. De Beers had registered a tactical lie with the Ministry of Mines: it was still prospecting for diamonds and would do so for a long time before any meaningful results were ready for tests, which would give way to further tests, before feasibility studies made way to sample drilling and so forth, and so forth! Many more moons between sleep, waking and eventual walking. Finally, Mr Government caught up with the lie, but well after the People had long done so, and of course joined De Beers in "prospecting" to the market, itself largely informal, mobile and cross-border. De Beers had been mining diamonds in a country which does not know its worth. We governed what we never knew, indeed in 1980 collected what we never got from the imperialists. But we had one helpful reputation — or, like Chiadzwa, notoriety. In the land of Munhumutapa, the white man would never again become king. Found on the wrong side of the law, he would be made to pay handsomely, indeed rot in jail until keys recklessly thrown into a haystack are finally recovered. Ask Richard Bawden. So sensing the fate awaiting them, De Beers vanished leaving everything pachin’yiro. We did not have to fight De Beers in the courts. Or arrest its white officers to great "international" outcry from white rights zealots.
Enter Cranswick . . .
Soon after disturbing this marauder, Government slid back into another deep slumber of indolence. During which time some son of an old Rhodesian white farmer from the nether ends of Mashonaland West — one Cranswick — nightly approached the geologists of De Beers — now in hiding — to get maps that revealed the richest parts of the sprawling deposits. Colour spoke to colour and the white boy got the knowledge on a platter. And title too! But he was commonsensical enough to know that in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, all-white was not the best colour. Off-white was! So he took a few blacks — significantly from the command of the liberation struggle — to dis-colour his claim registered as ACR. He had fished in Mugabe’s backyard, in the process brewing a thick one. Mujuru was there. Dabengwa was there and ya-aa, here was indigenisation anticipated! But to be fair to the two commanders, their share was mere tokenism, shrinking further to virtual nothingness when the white boy did as expected, namely take the whole ACR to London’s Alternative Market, ostensibly for listing. He got massive backing from the fat cats of London, Australia and South Africa, creating a new situation for the poor black "investors" in ACR who could not back up their shareholding claims. They needed big pounds and big pounds they did not have. As a write, Dabengwa could skating thinly on 0,006 percent!
A thing most British
ACR is a thing most British, which is why the former British ambassador, upon hearing that the Chinese had moved into Chiadzwa, had the temerity to timidly warn his Chinese colleague that indeed China was stepping on the red toes of royal Britain. Not many Zimbabweans know that the matter between ACR and the Zimbabwe Government is in fact a re-enactment of the age-old fight between the metropolis and its recalcitrant former colony over control of primary resources. Cde Kanengoni, keep this in mind before you emit any optimism from what Britain’s clownish election has yielded for No.10 Downing Street. The determinants are deeper than mere change of shuffling guards. Quite the contrary, Britain may now be under a government that knows the extent of its loss in Zimbabwe. They might just get angrier.
Tsekwende dze ACR
The Zimbabwe Government correctly disowned an agreement between two outsiders transacting a resource which belonged to the nation. Not even bribing some lowly mining commissioner in Mutare would ever make this deal acceptable, which is why ACR is in unending tsekwende. ACR has been in and out of courts. ACR has been in and out of Parliament. ACR has been in and out of offices. ACR has been in and beyond the country. It has run away. It has returned. It has lobbied. It has bought. It has threatened. It has litigated. It has mobilised. It has argued — all manner of deeds and misdeeds. It degrades the new South African investors who have gone to bed with State arms in Chiadzwa. They are criminals, scrap-metal dealers, non-indigenous exploiters! Gosh! I have never been a miner. Only indigenous. So one day when I want a fair share of the national mining cake, I must brace up for a challenge that tells me I have never been a miner, only a dark indigene? Anyway Cranswick has never been a miner, only a Rhodesian farmer’s son. Does that settle the matter for him? As for non-indigenous status, I hate it when white boys use the argument of my status and colour to defend and justify and perpetuate my denial. How does ACR become indigenous? How is it less foreign than Canadile? Has the Parliamentary Committee thought about all this? Whose war are they fighting?
Tapestry of treachery
Having failed in the courts and lobby-rooms, ACR used the MDC-T, the European and American lobby in the KPCS process, and human rights zealots to build pressure for a favourable outcome. Overnight, Zimbabwe became a case of bloody diamonds which were said to trade outside and in contravention of the KPCS process. The initial argument was that there was no security control. The country responded by deploying. Then the cry changed to human rights abuses, allegedly perpetrated by soldiers. Tenuous evidence was mobilised, including the unreliable and politically-coloured testimonies from a pretender to the Chiadzwa throne and an MDC-T MP called Mudiwa who does not seem to know that his senior, Tendai Biti, is agitating for diamonds money to come, so he can balance books and look pretty on an IMF catwalk. Then the matter changed to community rights. The cause of the long unimportant Chiadzwa villagers suddenly became the fad for human rights activists. More bizarre, it became a matter of security fencing and a matter to do with the absence of an airport from which to lift diamonds to points of sale. An aerodrome was built by the investor, triggering a new yarn: Mugabe was arming to the teeth by secretly building a new base for the Airforce under Perrance Shiri! He intends to carpet bomb elections, ran the propaganda! Not to mention the issue to do with a KPCS monitor who had to be British or American, since Africans are corrupt to the bone.
What are we worth?
Onerous standards and demands, all meant to make sure Zimbabwe cannot raise herself up by own bootstraps. We have to make "a new beginning" under Western tutelage and from Western donations! We should never recover on our own as this is sure to make us even more unbridled. To date, Chiadzwa has produced a mere 4 million carats in Government custody, whose value is under US$400 million. Rio Tinto’s Murowa has well over 14 million carats from the first quarter, all destined for the market, unaffected by the hurly-burly of Chiadzwa and Zimbabwe. What is 14 million carats in US dollar terms, extrapolating from the value we already know from the 4 million carats we hold? Close to US$1,3 billion notched in the first quarter of the year, all destined for Australia! Meanwhile, the children suffer from kwashiorkor, malaria, from illiteracy, from unclean water. We need bridging finance, we who donate that much to the nasty Australians? We are a very generous people and who needs colonialism to a people so happy and content to seek the political kingdom only, with nothing added unto them?
Is Murowa in Zimbabwe?
What is my point, gentle reader? Well, to simply express bafflement at why River Ranch and Murowa have, until now, been allowed to trade in bloody diamonds? The Western verdict is that Zimbabwe’s diamonds are bloody. Zvishavane is in Zimbabwe. So is Beitbridge. How do they get exempt from this blighting judgment, with us accepting that exemption? Which corner of Eden do they occupy to retain pre-lapsarian innocence in falling man and woman? Or are diamonds clean by which hand and nationality mines and handles them? The hand has to be British? The hand has to be Australian? The hand has to be American? But the British do not want to be sullied by illegality. The Australians do not want to be tarnished. So, let Zimbabwe, for once, be a responsible and enlightened member of the comity of nations: by uniformly enforcing a verdict passed against it by the mighty countries of the West. We cannot be seen to be undermining the KPCS process, surely? We cannot be seen to be tarnishing righteous Aussies, Britons, Americans, Germans, Canadians.
Let us freeze all mining activity until we qualify as a country. We cannot have enclaves of righteousness in a world of bloody diamonds. That way our worth remains undiminished. In any case it also allows us to polish up our act on indigenisation such that it is fully functional whenever the Western-controlled KPCS decides to mark us clean. In the meantime there is nothing between us and the empowering knowledge that KPCS is voluntary. It is not international law. We choose to be constrained by it or not. In the meantime nothing between us and alternative markets on which diamonds do trade robustly, every day. Yes, in the meantime there is nothing to stop us from listening to those KPCS members, mostly Western, who come to us by night to plead with us to outsell the hypocritical Americans and British humbuggers. Nothing at all.
Mugabe’s new beginning . . .
And this new found power and awareness of our value and leverage must be deployed unsparingly in support of our foreign policy. The shrill Canadians are here, enjoying our gold at Blanket Mine in Gwanda and other places. The Americans are here, not to mention the British, the Germans, the French, the Dutch. Is it not time to make these vindictive nations cry a little? I notice the Australians are already wailing. Their foreign minister, a man appropriately called Smith, wants "Mugabe to move off the stage to allow a new beginning". It is not difficult to see the connection between the extraordinary decision of this blessed week and this Smith’s raving anger. The Aussies have been hit where it hurts. He is taking a little longer to realise Mugabe has made a new beginning in his relations with his Western tormentors. No longer shall he ever take punishment lying. It is a beginning where nations have to earn Zimbabwe’s goodwill before they can reach or touch her resources; a beginning where Zimbabwe’s real status as a donor to Europe and America, well over a century, is held up for all to see. Apparently America has begun seeing this new beginning, which is why it is amending its ZDERA, whichever direction raving Carson takes. We should be able to override agreements and ownership to harmonise our economic and foreign policies. Enemies cannot be investors; friends cannot be political actors who are economic by-standers. Remember Fidel Castro: bullies are not shown fear. They are looked in the eye, confronted boldly. Icho! (This article was published in The Herald).