Analysis: Platinum, diamonds and bullets
NEWS that Robert Mugabe is trying to swap platinum deposits for military helicopters from Russia is a grim reminder that Zimbabwe’s long-time despot is unlikely to step down graciously if voters dare reject him in the next polls, as they did four years ago.
Kommersant, a Russian business newspaper, said that state corporation Russian Technologies was negotiating a deal that could see it granted rights to develop platinum deposits in northern Darwendale in exchange for the supply of Russian arms, including helicopters.
Zimbabwean news sources say the deal is at a more advanced stage than Kommersant suggests, claiming that a joint venture company called Ruschrome Mining has been granted a 25-year licence to explore and develop the Darwendale deposits.
Capital investment in the project has been estimated at $2.8 billion. Mining sources in the UK say Mugabe is expecting to receive “billions worth of military equipment” though Russia is likely to drive a hard bargain.
“This is absolutely worrying, given the fact that the purchases are not being done through the ministry of finance,” Dewa Mavhinga of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition told The Scotsman yesterday.
The fear is that the 88-year-old president is building his arsenal ahead of polls to be held by next June or earlier, if his ZANU-PF succeeds in sinking the constitution-making process.
A Global Witness report highlighted the “significant sums of money” likely flowing to the Zimbabwean military from highly-secretive diamond mining operations in eastern Chiadzwa.
The watchdog NGO says that a senior Zimbabwe military lawyer, Charles Tarumbwa, holds 50 per cent of shares in Anjin Investments, a Chiadzwa-based Chinese company that claims to be the world’s largest diamond mining firm – though it has not handed a cent to Zimbabwe’s opposition-controlled treasury this year.
The permanent secretary in Zimbabwe’s defence ministry, Martin Rushwaya, sits on the Anjin board and chairs Ruschrome.
Global Witness claims that Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) is receiving off-budget funding from Hong Kong-based businessman Sam Pa ahead of the polls.
Pa is reported to have handed more than $100 million and 200 pick-up vehicles to the CIO in return for diamond, cotton and property deals for him and his Queensway syndicate.
The CIO routinely uses unmarked pick-ups to track and abduct Mugabe opponents, and played a key role in the brutal Operation Makavhoterapapi (Where Did You Put Your Vote?) launched after the first round of polling in March 2008, which Mugabe lost to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
“Given the violent reputation of the CIO and military, we fear that this money could fund human rights abuses during the forthcoming election,” said Nick Donovan of Global Witness.
For now, restrained by South African president Jacob Zuma, Mugabe is trying to win the battle for hearts and minds.
A source told Global Witness that Pa’s money may be going to the CIO’s Operation Spiderweb, aimed at discrediting Tsvangirai and his MDC deputy, finance minister Tendai Biti.
State media published attacks on the pair. In one, the official Herald – controlled by Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba – said Tsvangirai should be arrested for espionage because he had seen internal police documents. Signs are that Mugabe will resort to outright violence once his hold on power is really threatened.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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