Is Mugabe Raiding Diamond Mines to Hold onto Power?

Zimbabwe's autocratic president is suspected of redirecting profits from the country's diamond mines for his own purposes — such as shoring up his control over the country after a 31-year reign.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Even if the yield of Zimbabwe's diamond mines is as reported by the Mugabe government, he has still likely shortchanged the national treasury by some $60 million, The New York Times reports.

Mugabe, after his closest brush with the opposition in an election widely thought to have been stolen, is apparently using the profits from mining operations out of necessity. He no longer holds the country's checkbook as he once did.

Now that Mr. Mugabe no longer controls the Finance Ministry — the result of a tenuous power-sharing arrangement to end the rampant state-sponsored violence during the 2008 presidential election — analysts say he needs outside income to finance his political operations. Diamonds offer him a rare opportunity to do that, especially now that international monitors have agreed to let Zimbabwe sell vast quantities of them, despite repeated warnings that it would enable Mr. Mugabe to tighten his grip on the nation.

Recent expenditures by Mr. Mugabe and his security forces have worried observers that unaccounted money from Marange, estimated to be one of the world’s richest troves because of its volume of diamonds, is financing his party’s groundwork for the early elections he is seeking next year.

Mugabe's security forces have been loading up on weapons from China, even as the redirection of the diamond revenue is starting to do just what it would in the second reel of the movie version: turn the partners against one another.

Questions about the diamonds have even caused some splintering within Mr. Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, as some benefit personally while others get cut out.

“I personally don’t think the numbers tally at all,” said a former senior ZANU-PF official, speaking anonymously to maintain relationships within the party. “When you look at the fields they are mining and how rich they are and what they later declare, you see that there must be a huge difference.”

“People are asking, ‘Where is the diamond money?’ ” the official added, “and the answers don’t seem to be coming out.”

The Times reports that aid groups are already worried about ZANU-PF forces operating in rural areas, intimidating potential supporters of the opposition in advance of next year's elections.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.