Marange diamond company is Zanu-PF's best friend

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party kicked off its 12th annual people’s conference in Bulawayo on Wednesday amid efforts to pull in big business to participate in a concurrent exhibition.

The move is seen by observers as an attempt to shore up funding for the conference—attended by 6 000 Zanu-PF delegates—which is understood to have been hit by a serious cashflow crisis.

Zanu-PF’s internal politics are largely influenced behind the scenes by its wealthy elite and tycoons, known to give financial backing to either of the two Zanu-PF rival factions led by Joyce Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa. Prominent financiers over the years include the late kingmaker Solomon Mujuru and Philip Chiyangwa.

Chiyangwa last year donated $100 000 to the party’s conference in Mutare, a gesture that resulted in him being accepted back into Zanu-PF’s fold last month after a seven-year exile on espionage allegations. In the run-up to this year’s conference, Chiyangwa hinted at further bankrolling of the party.

The December 6 to 10 conference is estimated to be costing the party $1-million, with each of the party’s 10 provinces required to chip in $50 000. But it is understood from a Zanu-PF insider that the host province, Bulawayo, had raised only $21 000 by the end of last month. Companies that have stepped forward to take part in the Zanu-PF business exhibition include mobile operator Net One, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and the party’s investment arm, Seedco.

About 150 informal traders have also set up exhibition stands at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, the venue for the conference.

Noah Mangondo, the Zanu-PF national fundraising committee chairperson, said: “The objective of the expo is to offer a platform for the Zanu-PF leadership to interact with the business community and vice-versa. With specific reference to Bulawayo, this exhibition will go a long way towards the resuscitation of business and restoring investor confidence.”

Bulawayo has been grappling with massive de-industrialisation that has led to 90 companies shutting down, according to statistics from the trade and industry ministry. Ahead of elections next year, Bulawayo remains a political and economic hotspot. Since 2000 it has been a stronghold for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said the Bulawayo conference would be a time of “deep introspection” for the party and would serve as the launch pad for its election campaign. With no outright challenge to his rule in the party, Mugabe is certain to be endorsed this weekend as Zanu-PF’s presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, Marange Resources, the diamond-linked firm with operations in the Marange minefields, is also exhibiting at the business expo, fuelling speculation that the country’s diamond resources are bankrolling the Zanu-PF conference.

Zanu-PF’s tight grip on diamond revenue has, in the past, allowed it to bypass the treasury and the MDC-headed finance ministry and set up a “parallel government”, used to finance several projects.

This week, international diamond watchdog Global Witness pulled out of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) in protest against the group giving the green light to the sale of diamonds from Marange. Global Witness suggested the diamonds would be used to fund the elections in Zimbabwe next year and buy loyalty for Mugabe.

Charmian Gooch, Global Witness’s founding director, said: “Over the past decade, elections in Zimbabwe have been associated with the brutal intimidation of voters.

Orchestrating this kind of violence costs a lot of money. As the country approaches another election there is a high risk of Zanu-PF hardliners employing these tactics once more and using Marange diamonds to foot the bill. The Kimberley Process’s refusal to confront this reality is an outrage.”

Gift Chimanikire, the deputy minister of mines and mining development, said this week: “If they [Global Witness] are an interested party, why should they pull out? Global Witness should not cry foul, because KPCS decisions are made by consensus.

“We are going to sell our diamonds no matter what. After all, our job is to sell diamonds and not convince anyone to remain a KPCS member.”

Ray Ndlovu

Ray Ndlovu

Ray Ndlovu has been a correspondent for the Mail & Guardian in Zimbabwe since 2009. His areas of interest include politics and business. With a BSc honours degree in journalism and media studies, Ray aspires to become a media mogul.   Read more from Ray Ndlovu

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