ZCDC boss resigns amid claims of political interference

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MUTARE – The Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Mining Company (ZCDC)’s acting chief executive, Robert De Pretto, has resigned amid allegations of frustration and continuous political interference.

De Pretto, who recently told legislators during a workshop in the eastern border town that he was shocked by the level of poverty and underdevelopment in Chiadzwa despite being endowed with one of the largest diamond deposits in the world, tendered his resignation letter last week.

Zim Morning Post was unable to get a comment from the ZCDC spokesperson, Sugar Chagonda, who did not respond to calls and messages at the time of going to Press.

However, De Pretto who in July decried the underdevelopment in Chiadzwa, 15 years after diamonds were discovered, confirmed his resignation.

“Yes, I can confirm that. It is due to family pressure,” De Pretto told Zim Morning Post.

“I have not seen my family since January, and my wife is not well. It is, indeed, unfortunate that I had to leave ZCDC, but the well being of my family comes first,” he added.

His family is currently in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Inside sources, however, said De Pretto resigned out of frustration and constant political interference in the running of affairs at the diamond mining company.

“He was frustrated by the continuous political interference. The government, through the Ministry of Mines, was imposing decisions on the operations of the company, so De Pretto felt he was no longer in full control of the company,” said the source.

“He was also frustrated by the fact that some secret companies which were well connected to top government officials were imposed to partner ZCDC in the mining of diamonds,” the source continued.

“This did not go down well with him. He had a vision for this company. He wanted to bring transparency and accountability, but unfortunately was never given the chance to do so,” the source said.

The now former ZCDC boss was also said to have been agitated against the clandestine imposition of companies to ZCDC.

“These companies were to play a huge role in aiding rogue actors to gain a foothold within the ZCDC, allowing diamonds that should have benefited Zimbabweans to be ruthlessly exploited by selfish individuals,” said the source.

De Pretto’s resignation comes in the wake of another resignation of the ZCDC board led by Killian Ukama early this year.

The board members also cited interference in the running of the company as the reason for resignation.

Parliamentarians have said the resignation of the ZCDC board exposed the ‘dark secrets’ in the diamond fields, where rampant individual interests are said to exist.

This came out during a workshop for the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development on the Review of Legislation and Policies Governing the Mining Industry in Zimbabwe that was held in Mutare recently.

Bindura South Member of Parliament Remigious Matangira said there was something ‘improper’ over the resignation of the board.

“We heard that the ZCDC’s entire board resigned. We were never told why they did so. We know that a lot is happening in the diamonds sector,” Matangira said.

“As members of the portfolio committee, we want to know why the board resigned. Is there anything that is being hidden from us?” he said.

The Deputy Minister of Mines, Polite Kambamura, said in response: “The issue of the ZCDC board was above board. The matter is that the members of the board resigned. Some resigned in their personal capacities, while others for reasons which we cannot disclose here.”

He added: “So, we had to appoint a new board.”

Farai Maguwu, director of the Centre For Natural Resource and Governance said De Pretto’s resignation was a sad development.

“He came across as an ethical man who was trying hard to act professionally in a toxic environment,” Maguwu said.

“His recent remarks on the shocking poverty levels in Marange despite massive diamond resources, sums up his frustration of presiding over an institution he was not fully in control of,” Maguwu added.

De Pretto recently told parliamentarians during the same workshop that he was shocked by the levels of poverty among the Marange villagers despite them being in an area where diamonds are being mined.

He said villagers in Marange should be given priority in terms of developmental initiatives.

“It is a shock to me that there is no development despite that Chiadzwa fields have one of the largest diamond deposits in the world, there is no running water, poor roads, while children are walking long distances to go to school,” the former ZDC boss said then.

Mukasiri Sibanda, the adviser on Tax and Natural Resource Governance with Tax Justice Network Africa, said frustrations on potential ZCDC company leadership was a consistent pattern.

“First, in 2017 we had an entire ZCDC executive that was dismissed. A year later, we have a board that resigned and now, the acting CEO has resigned. That’s the consistent pattern which shows that someone is not willing to deliver on the stability of the sector by making sure that people with a history and constitutional memory are constantly removed from the system,” Sibanda said.

“I think that’s a huge challenge which obviously points to efforts at stifling transparency and accountability in the diamond sector,” Sibanda added.

It is believed that thousands of carats of diamonds worth billions in foreign currency are being smuggled out of Zimbabwe from the Chiadzwa Diamond Fields on private jets and feeding the thriving international black market through sophisticated syndicates involving top officials in the Ministry of Mines, ZCDC senior employees, State security agents, Zanu PF politicians and some wealthy buyers.

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