Elisa Peter is the Executive Director of Publish What You Pay.
When President Mugabe announced on his 92nd birthday, 21st February 2016, that $15 billion worth of revenues generated by the diamond industry had gone missing, the majority of Zimbabweans believed him. Zimbabwe is among the world’s ten largest producers of diamonds.
It is also one of the world’s poorest countries, ranked 156 in the 2014 Human Development Index. Every year, it extracts 4,7 million carats of diamonds, enough to produce millions of engagement rings for enamoured couples around the world. But do people in Zimbabwe benefit from this natural wealth? The answer is a resounding no.
Zimbabwe is not an isolated anomaly. Revenues generated by mining around the world have gone missing for years, the results of a vast and complex web made of illicit financial flaws, tax evasion and disrespect for the rule of law. The first to bear the brunt of corruption are citizens of resources-rich countries, especially local communities who often derive little benefit from mining yet suffer its environmental and social impacts.
In Zimbabwe’s community of Marange in the Manicaland province, possibly home to one of the world’s richest diamond deposits, schools, clinics and paved roads are scarce.
I just came back from Harare, where I met with outstanding anti-corruption activists, who work to promote transparency and accountability in the diamond and gold mining sectors. Contrary to Western perception, there is a vibrant civil society sector in Zimbabwe promoting good governance as well as social, economic and environmental rights. They are hard at work to track these missing $15 billion.
One of them, Darlington Farai Muyambwa, one of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) fellows, and Publish What You Pay’s national coordinator in Zimbabwe is working closely with colleagues at the renowned Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) to train activists in following the money from mining sites to the state’s coffer.
For the rest of this column, click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elisa-peter/digging-for-the-missing-1_b_10255282.html