By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
HARARE, Zimbabwe – Civic society organisations (CSOs) refused to accept an offer of funds from Mines Minister Obert Mpofu on the ground that this might prevent them from making the government accountable for its diamond revenues.
During a review meeting of this month’s international diamond conference in Victoria Falls, Minister Mpofu said that most of the CSO’s who criticized the country’s diamond industry were being funded by “hostile governments” and were against “national interests”.
He suggested that members of the civil society would be more approving of and cooperative with the Zimbabwean government if they were brought “on board on all issues” and a budget was prepared for them. “One who pays the piper calls the tune,” Minister Mpofu said.
“We can say all diamond producers should set aside a small levy of about 1 percent for the NGOs. As a matter of principle, to make progress we will consider some allocation from the diamond producers towards the civil society. The permanent secretary and his colleagues will work on that and I will persuade the diamond producers,” he added.
However, Minister Mpofu’s statement was met with immediate dissent and criticism from various civil society groups.
Farai Maguwu, director of a new minerals watchdog, Center for Natural Resources Governance, said accepting 1 percent of all diamond sales will “compromise [the CSO’s] neutrality.” Maguwu asserted that civil society groups need to protect and maintain their independence to be able to “criticize and pressure” the government to account for its diamond mining activities.
Other CSO’s described Minister Mpofu’s offer as an “obvious bribe”.
Centre for Community Development activist Phillip Pasirayi shot down Mpofu’s proposal saying, “we as civil society utterly reject this offer. Mpofu should be educated enough to know that civil society cannot be forced into being part of the ZANU PF patronage system. We demand accountability and we demand transparency.”
Pasirayi also questioned the motive behind Mpofu’s offer. According to him, why would the government allot diamond proceeds for civic activists “when the money is so desperately needed by other sectors of society.”
“The cash generated from diamonds should go into social services, and infrastructural development, and improving access to medical care and basic service. That is where the money should go,” Pasirayi advised.
Minister Mpofu did not take these responses well. Days after the Victoria Falls Diamond Conference, Minister Mpofu accused the CSO’s for “deliberately peddling falsehoods” and “malicious reports” on Zimbabwe’s diamond industry.
During the breakfast meeting organized by the Mines Ministry in Harare, he regarded the civic activists as “a bunch of individuals masquerading as representatives of the people” determined to undermine the government through “unjustified vilification” of the diamond industry.
“Let me warn our colleagues in civil society that if you do not want to work with us, then we will go it alone and we will be very hard on you,” Minister Mpofu threatened.
For further information, please see:
Associated Press – Zimbabwe: Civic groups refuse diamond money offer – 24 November 2012
All Africa – Zimbabwe: Civic Groups Walk Out After Threats By Mines Minister – 22 November 2012
All Africa – Zimbabwe: Civil Society Angered By Mpofu Diamond ‘Bribe’ – 22 November 2012
Yahoo News – Zimbabwe government stealing diamond funds: Report – 12 November 2012
Voice of America – Activists Fear Diamonds Will Fund Mugabe Power Grab – 8 November 2012