Zanu PF faction "snatch diamonds from central bank"
Harare- A 29-kilogram consignment of diamonds from Zimbabwe's controversial Chiadzwa diamond field has disappeared after being removed by police officers believed to be linked to a Zanu PF faction from the central bank, in violation of orders by the country's supreme court, sources said at the weekend.
The incident is the latest turn in the long-running legal dispute between British-registered mining company African Consolidated Resources and the country's mines minister, Obert Mpofu, over the ownership of Chiadzwa claims in eastern Zimbabwe.
We have already revealed that the armed group behind the attack on a British-Diamond company ACR in Harare on Tuesday night has been linked to a Zanu PF faction led by Retired Army General Solomon Mujuru.
The faction is objecting to the plan by its rival led by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa for the Diamonds to be kept at the Reserve Bank as provided by the recent Supreme Court ruling.
The Supreme Court ordered that the diamonds be moved to the reserve bank to be kept by "a neutral body" pending the resolution of the ownership dispute, but the Mujuru faction are accusing the Supreme Court bench of being manipulated by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa who is associated to the Mnangagwa faction.
The Mnangagwa faction has an upper hand over the diamonds as a result of the Mines Minister Obert Mpofu who is also associted to them.
ACR was forced off its property at gunpoint by police in 2006, but in September last year a high court judge ruled that its ejection was illegal and that it was the rightful owner.
The government has appealed. Geologists say Chiadzwa is the world's biggest diamond discovery in a century and could yield more than a billion US dollars annually to the country struggling to emerge from economic collapse.
The missing rough diamonds held in three strong boxes were part of a much larger collection of diamonds that were mined by ACR before they were evicted, and afterwards by the bankrupt state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) until late last year.
Chief justice Godfrey Chidyausiku a fortnight ago ordered that they be deposited in the central bank for safekeeping until the case was finalised.
'We don't know where they (the diamonds) are,' said ACR's lawyer, Jonathan Samkange. On Thursday, officials from the government, ACR and the central bank were recording the details of the diamonds to be moved to the bank when Minister Mpofu walked in with his lawyer, said an official who was present but asked not to be named.
'He produced this letter from the registrar of the supreme court in which she said that the chief justice had suspended the September ruling, and that we couldn't move the diamonds,' the witness said.
'But the deputy sheriff (of Harare, responsible for carrying out the chief justice's order) stood his ground and Mpofu stormed out.'
In a letter to both parties, the registrar of the Supreme Court working on orders ffrom Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said: "Please be advised that the Honourable Chief Justice has advised that the order granted on 25 January, 2010 suspends the whole of the Hon-ourable Justice Hungwe's judgement as will appear more fully in the reasons for judgement that his Lordship will hand down shortly."
Advocate Farai Mutam-angira, who represents the Mines Minister, MMCZ and the Attorney-General's Office in the case, said the Supreme Court order was not a stand alone order.
The three strongboxes were carried in a heavy security vehicle under escort of senior police to the central bank and were being registered shortly before being placed in the bank vaults.
'Then the senior policeman started getting phone calls,' the witness said. 'Then he said, There have been new developments. The letter is genuine. I am taking the diamonds'.' Despite the protests of the officials, police officers believed to be linked to a Zanu PF faction removed the boxes.
Sources said the diamonds were removed after a tip off by intelligence officers that a Zanu PF faction was planning to launch a massive armed raid at the Reserve Bank.
'The police robbed the central bank,' ACR lawyer Samkange accused.
He said the letter from supreme court registrar Nomonde Mazabane was 'illegal' because court officials cannot give rulings on behalf of judges. It would also mean that Chidyausiku was reversing his earlier order, 'and that's impossible.'
'An order by the supreme court is final and cannot be appealed.'
ACR's lawyer Mr Jonathan Samkange, however, said the development was clear sign of interference with the judiciary.
"I have never heard about this in my lifetime.
"I received a letter from the registrar of the Supreme Court that the Chief Justice wanted to deliver a judgment to a case finalised last week.
"Obviously, he is expe-cted to give full reasons why and how the order was arrived at. That means simply expanding the order already given and not to completely change it.
"The letter by the registrar is illegal. An order has already been made by the highest court of the land cannot be challenged.
"That is lack of rule of law. The order stands until it is appealed against. But in this case, the highest court of the land has ruled and noone can appeal against a Supreme Court order.
"If the minister is now forcing the registrar to write a letter, then that is interference with the rule of law.
"He is actually defeating the course of justice.
"If we have a minister who does not respect the law, then who is going to respect it?" he said.
Mpofu is coming under increasing pressue over his allegedly illegal award in September of mining rights at Chiadzwa to a South African scrap metal trader with no previous experience in diamond mining, local registered as Mbada and working in partnership with the ZMDC.
Retired General Mujuru is pushing for his wife, the current joint Vice President Joyce Mujuru to succeed Robert Mugabe in a bitterly contested succession battle with the Defence Minister Emmerson Mnagagwa and the two factions are engaged in hostile activities to out do each other as the curtain comes down for the aging Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
In Harare, on Tuesday, gunmen armed with AK47 rifles stormed the Zimbabwe offices of a British-based diamond company, African Consolidated Resource after midnight Tuesday, in an incident police tried to play down describing it as a robbery.
A parliamentary inquiry heard this week from senior state mining officials that they had no idea of what Mbada did with its diamonds.
Last month Mbada tried to hold an auction of 300,000 carats of diamonds in Zimbabwe, allegedly without notifying any authorities or its partner.
Zimbabwe is under close scrutiny by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, the UN-founded international body set up to combat the spread of 'blood diamonds' that fuel wars in Africa.
Chiadzwa was overrun by illegal diggers shortly after it was seized by the government, but late in 2008 the army carried out a brutal operation to drive them away.
New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch, in a report on the operation last year, accused the army of killing and injuring dozens of diggers in the operation - an allegation the government denied.