Mbada drags ZCDC to court

Mbada Diamonds is contesting the government’s decision in court, arguing it has been financially paralysed, failing to pay a long list of service providers.

MBADA Diamonds (Pvt) Ltd has raised a red flag over reports that the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) has set a monthly production target of 200 000 carats by the end of March, a 100% increase after it tumbled below 100 000 carats per month last year, amid revelations the ZCDC has illegally taken over the evicted company’s diamond ore.

By Elias Mambo/Obey Manayiti

Mbada, through the High Court, has since obtained a court interdict stopping the ZCDC from looting its ore dumps.
This comes amid reports that since the end of Mbada operations on February 22 last year, illegal panners have breached security to loot more than 150 000 tonnes of diamond ore stockpiles that were ready for processing.

Investigations revealed that on the day operations were stopped the police force, accompanied by ZCDC officials as well as Mines ministry officials, swiftly moved into the Mbada concession in a dramatic move resembling a Hollywood-style script.

“The Mbada officials were forced to sit down, police seized their cellphones and communication with the outside world was cut off,” a source said.

“The employees were later forced to depart from the mine on foot. They were only assisted with transport later after they had begun footing out of the mining concession in fear.”

The sources also said ministry officials lacked an understanding of the way processing plants should be handled.

“The dense media separation (DMS) processing plants were just shut down whilst ferrosilicon (FeSi) was still circulating in the system. This resulted in damage to major plant components from caked FeSi.”

Sources also said illegal mining began on the very day operations were stopped by the minister.

“The main security fence surrounding the mining concession was looted by panners who invaded Chiadzwa since 22nd February 2016.”

Mbada recently filed an urgent chamber application to stop the ZCDC from looting its diamond ores in Marange.

In the application, which was granted, David Kassel, chairperson of Grandwell Holdings (Pvt) Ltd, a company which owns a 50% stake in Mbada, said the ZCDC executive was looting its ores as well as the diamonds which were in the vaults.

In his affidavit, Kassel said: “The first respondent (ZCDC), through its officers led by one Ridge Nyashanu and accompanied by officers of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, have and continue to collect from the third respondent’s (Mbada Diamonds) concession area, diamond ore mined by the third respondent which they take to the first respondent’s concession area.

“The first respondent entered Marange concession area during the night on the 20th of January 2017 and evening on the 21st January 2017 and unlawfully removed stockpiles of diamonds ore from the third respondent’s red zone, a zone that should not be entered without the approval of the third respondent’s security personnel. No approval was obtained.”

Kassel also said the ZCDC tampered with “the sort hours lockboxes and the main vault together with safes”. The vault, lockboxes and safes contained diamonds.

“The first respondent entered the vault and safe area in the third respondent’s concession area in the company of Erwin Smith, a specialist who used to assist the third respondent with servicing and calibrating security machines and safes.”

However, this week, despite reports of alleged looting, the ZCDC said production is expected to increase from below 100 000 carats per month last year.

Since the ZCDC took over, diamond production has plunged, eroding revenue, a development which has impacted negatively on the country’s economy. This has led to the firing of the former chief executive Nyashanu.

In a move aimed at improving production levels, government has also reached an agreement with Jinan Diamond Company to cede its mining concessions to the ZCDC.

l This article is part of an ongoing ground-breaking investigation into the Marange alluvial diamonds discovery and subsequent plundering at various stages by state and non-state actors. The special series is supported by the Investigative Journalism Fund.

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