By Staff Reporter
Happy days are over?They want Mugabe out?
GRACE Mugabe has fleshed out her allegations of illicit diamond dealing against Vice President Joice Mujuru by claiming that she owned African Consolidated Resources (ACR), the British company which held the rights to Marange diamonds.
ACR, a company active in Zimbabwe since 2004, claimed to have bought the rights to the Marange gem find from global diamond giant De Beers in 2006, but was soon kicked out by the government.
When ACR was evicted, then mines minister Obert Mpofu boasted that Zimbabwe would never beg the world for assistance again because Marange diamonds would earn the country about $2 billion each year – money former finance minister Tendai Biti said never reached the treasury.
On Thursday, the First Lady claimed that Mujuru formed ACR in a bid to control the country’s mineral resources and fund a plot to oust President Robert Mugabe because he is too old.
“They formed a company called ACR for them to loot diamonds, gold and every mineral in Zimbabwe,” said Grace. “Their efforts were rejected in 2006 when Government said diamonds belonged to Zimbabweans and not one family.”
Grace, who has been attacking the vice president in recent weeks and has now openly demanded that she resigns, revealed Mujuru’s alleged ACR involvement while addressing war veterans at her compound in Mazowe.
The chief executive of ACR at the time the company was trying to exploit the Marange diamonds was Andrew Cranswick who had worked in Zimbabwe since the 1980s.
According to whistle-blower WikiLeaks, Cranswick allegedly told the US embassy in Harare that several top officials were involved in gem smuggling in the country.
In one of the embassy cables released by WikiLeaks, then US Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee wrote: “RBZ Governor Gideon Gono, Grace Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe, Vice President Joice Mujuru, (the then) Mines and Mining Development Minister Amos Midzi, General Constantine Chiwenga and wife Jocelyn, CIO director Happyton Bonyongwe, Manicaland Governor Chris Mushohwe and several white Zimbabweans including Ken Sharpe, Greg Scott and Hendrick O’Neill, are involved in the Marange diamond trade”.
Cranswick, who no longer lives in Zimbabwe, said he never spoke to US embassy officials but, in a judgement, High Court Judge Ben Hhlatshwayo ruled he should pay the 10 million dollars Bonyongwe demanded, plus interest.
Meanwhile, after muscling ACR out, the government moved the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) into Marange in joint ventures with various private outfits.
“ACR has been in dispute with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Mines since March 2007 in connection with its alluvial diamond discovery at Marange which discovery has now attracted worldwide attention,” the company said at the time.
“ACR continues to assert that it is the rightful legal owner of the claims on which its discovery was made, and will continue to do all it can to work with the Government to resolve the Marange issue in a transparent manner for the benefit of all stakeholders,” the statement added.
Mpofu, meanwhile, also threatened to sue De Beers, claiming the company had quietly looted Marange for ten years before hastily selling its rights to ACR in 2006 after realising that the government was onto them.
“De Beers were there at Marange for 13 years and they didn’t say they found diamonds in Zimbabwe. It does not take five minutes to find diamonds in Marange,” he said.
“When the government started asking questions, De Beers left. Their withdrawal was so sudden. All the diamonds are not accounted for. They exported not hundreds but thousands of tons of diamonds without Kimberley Process Certification Scheme approval.”