LONDON (Commodity Online): The world knows very well about the rule of Robert Gabriel Karigamombe Mugabe in Zimbabwe, a country with over 1,00,000 per cent inflation rate. This is despite the country having the best diamond fields in the world. There is a saying in Zimbabwe if you own the diamonds in the country you can buy any African country now.
Most people blame Mugabe for the plight of the country and its numerous internal wars which are mainly for winning an upper hand over the diamond mines.
But, very few people know about the real reason behind Mugabe's flawed reign. It is Grace Mugabe, the second wife of Mugabe, who is known as 'Disgrace' in local media. And, she has a weakness for diamonds and anything luxurious. Insiders say Grace is the undoing of Mugabe and his rule.
Grace was previously married to Stanley Goreraza, an air force pilot, and now an ambassador to China. As secretary to the president, she became his mistress and together they had two children, Bona and Robert Peter. The couple were married in an extravagant Catholic Mass, titled the 'Wedding of the Century' by the Zimbabwe press, after the death of Mugabe's first wife, Sally Hayfron.
The first family owns property in Malaysia, and in early 2008, it was reported that Grace Mugabe hoped to move there with her children. The intention behind the move was to escape the stress of leadership and to address fears that the first family faces assassination Recent reports indicate that Grace acquired property holdings in Hong Kong, including a diamond cutting business and a bolt-hole at House Number Three, JC Castle, 18 Shan Tong Road, Tai Po, Hong Kong.
And, from this diamond cutting unit in HK, Grace converts all the blood diamonds from Zimbabwe. The story of blood diamonds from Zimbabwe is a saga of tragedies and bloody battles.
Since 2000, the Mugabe-led government embarked on a controversial fast-track land reform program designed to correct the inequitable land distribution created by colonial rule.
Now, it seems Mugabe's Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) seems to be doing only one job - of targeting diamond mine owners and traders in the country. The nation is blessed with the sparklers that almost every crime in the country is related to diamonds.
There are reports that Mugabe's men raid almost every diamond trader and miner in the country to seize diamonds from them. Unconfirmed reports say that the person behind all these raids is Grace Mugabe. And, because of her passion and greed for diamonds and luxuries, she directs raids on all diamond traders.
Now, at stake is the unimaginable wealth to be had from the world's oldest and richest diamond field, with the potential to bring in a billion dollars a year.
Meanwhile, millions of dollars from the diamonds are being siphoned off by Mugabe, Grace and their greedy inner circle to enrich and entrench themselves in power a few years longer.
Since early 2009, Zimbabwe has had a unity government. But real power lies with Mugabe and the security chiefs in control of the armed forces, police and intelligence services. The government is powerless to stop this inner circle.
Mining giant De Beers had pulled out of Zimbabwe, letting its claim on diamond fields lapse. Zimbabwe was in the middle of an economic and humanitarian nightmare. Once the breadbasket of southern Africa, under Mugabe it had descended into joblessness and hunger. Astronomical inflation had destroyed its currency. Corrupt politics had ruined it.
Millions of dollars' worth of diamonds were smuggled out via Mozambique and South Africa, then shipped to Europe, India and the Middle East for cutting and polishing. It was an uncontrollable free-for-all. Police operations to quell the smuggling targeted only the small players, leaving alone the powerfully connected smugglers and buyers, who operated with impunity.
These so-called diamond barons were working for the personal accounts of a select wealthy few, the sharks at the top of the military and security services.
In October 2008, diamond fever hit such a peak that a joint operation of the army, police and intelligence officers was launched to take over the field. Its real aim was to give the syndicates operated by the sharks free rein. By this time the province of Manicaland in which Marange is located was in new hands. Mugabe had appointed as governor Christopher Mushowe, his former butler and a relative of his wife. Mushowe is part of the ring profiting from the diamonds.
Zimbabwe was accused of trading in blood diamonds, which fuel conflict, and a campaign took root to ban its diamonds from world markets. There were calls for Zimbabwe's suspension from the Kimberley Process certification scheme (KP) - a mechanism set up with UN backing to prohibit the sale of blood diamonds.
Zimbabwe is not Sierra Leone, where diamonds brought war, warlords and terrible atrocities. But unless it can be stopped, the great theft of diamonds from Marange heralds a darkening future for Zimbabwe, with billions of dollars lost to the nation's coffers and potential funding for a future military coup in place.
In a recent move, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is close to giving the green light for legal sales of stones from the controversial, highly contested and blood-soaked Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe.
A March 21 fact-finding report by the recently appointed KPCS monitor, South African Abbey Chikane, has ignored human rights abuses, smuggling and the legality of commercial leases used by two new foreign-backed Zimbabwe companies to mine rough alluvial diamonds in the Marange area in Manicaland Province.
The Marange diamond area is now controlled and run by two new Zimbabwean companies, Mbada Diamonds, backed by South African company New Reclamation Group, in which Old Mutual has nearly a 6 percent interest, and a Mauritian-backed company, Canadile Miners, which Chikane says in his report has limited resources.
After De Beers gave up its leases on two diamond fields in the Marange communal area in 2006, a small British company, run by Zimbabweans, called African Consolidated Resources, was awarded two leases in the abandoned De Beer's claims.