MUTARE – The illicit trade in diamonds has surged dramatically in this eastern border city amid reports top police officers and soldiers have formed syndicates with wealthy foreign buyers and illegal miners to smuggle the precious gems from Chiadzwa in Marange.
The illegal practice had stopped about six months ago after the army launched a brutal campaign to flush out illegal miners and traders from the diamond rich area.
But illegal miners and foreign buyers have once again found their way back to Chiadzwa and are operating at full throttle with complete impunity – courtesy of the syndicates they have formed with senior army personnel and police officers.
Police sources this week revealed foreign buyers were enjoying the protection of named top police officers based at the Mutare Central Police station. The sources gave the names of the officers to this newspaper.
The foreign buyers are said to be from countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the West African states of Guinea and Nigeria, Lebanon and Israel.
“These foreigners are enjoying unfettered access to Chiadzwa because they enjoy maximum protection from senior police officers and some in the army,” said a junior police officer based at Mutare Central Police Station.
The emergence of the notorious syndicates involving the top officers from the police, army and rich foreigners come as the government is raising concern over the increased smuggling of precious gems from Chiadzwa.
Daring dealers from Mutare and Harare are also part of the cartels that have emerged over the past month, said police sources.
Giles Mutsekwa, co-Minister of Home Affairs in the inclusive government, at the weekend promised to take action to stop the illegal mining and smuggling of diamonds from Chiadzwa.
He said he would soon consult his co-Minister, Kembo Mohadi on the course of action to take.
Police officers who declined to be named said so powerful have become the foreign buyers such that they can use the police to solve personal issues or matters arising from their illegal dealings.
The sources said a foreign buyer from the DRC has enlisted the services of top police officers in Mutare and Harare to trek down a woman from this eastern border city who is alleged to have disappeared with about US$30 000 belonging to the Congolese.
The sources said the woman disappeared with the cash two months ago after a dispute over payment of commission she was due to receive from the Congolese buyer. The Congolese dealer is now based in Mutare trading in diamonds while also pursuing this woman believed to be in her early 30s. She is believed to have skipped the border into South Africa.
The transaction that turned sour was done in Manica Town of Mozambique.
The sources said it was surprising how senior police officers would seek to arrest the woman and take her to Mozambique because the transaction was not done on Zimbabwean soil. Mozambican police have not made any requests to have the woman arrested and taken to Mozambique.
“What is clear here is that this so called criminal offence committed in Mozambique but what is now surprising if not shocking is that our seniors here are busy pursuing the case,” said one police source.
“Instead they should be asking this Congolese guy what kind of business he is conducting here in Zimbabwe.”