Zim losing millions through gemstone smuggling
By Ndanatsiwa Tagwireyi
About 36-semi precious stones found in Zimbabwe are falling prey to organized international trafficking syndicates that are smuggling the stones to overseas destinations, a study published by the Center for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) has revealed.
“International buyers and local players have established a cartel which is conniving to bleed the government of millions of dollars amid revelations that there is rampant theft and illegal export of the country’s semi-precious metals,” notes Tongai Muzenda, Mineral Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) General Manager quoted in the study.
The study which is titled, ‘The Political Economy of the Illicit Coloured Gemstone Industry in Zimbabwe,’ notes that gemstone smuggling is caused by difficulties in obtaining licenses, inefficient marketing system, porous borders, and absence of technology to detect coloured stones and difficulties in regulating mining and possession of gemstones.
It is difficult to obtain the licenses from the (MMCZ) and Ministry of Mines; despite the existence of S1256/2019, MMCZ has not been issuing licenses to gemstone agents,” part of the study reads. “Zimbabwe has not been able to establish a roust market for the stones, foreign buyers such as Chinese arrive in Zimbabwe with cash and go straight to the artisanal miners where they negotiate for lower prices.”
Buyers with cash can easily mop up the stocks and smuggle them into Zambia where it is easier and quicker to export to Asian countries than in Zimbabwe.
“The ports of exit are not watertight, there are numerous unmanned routes used by people to cross into neighouring countries such as Mozambique and South Africa,” CNRG study reads. “Because these coloured stones are simply rocks which possess no obvious detectable characteristics, it has been difficult to detect by use of the current scanning equipment at the ports of exit.”
In an interview with the Mining Vision Magazine, CNRG Executive Director Farai Maguwu said gemstone policy and legislations are critical in addressing some of the downside risks of gemstone smuggling.
“The first thing we need is a gemstone policy and legislation. This helps the government to address the issue of value, mining rights and marketing,” Maguwu said citing that: “Policy and legislation will protect producers and safeguard the national interest.”
It is on record that the informal mining and illegal trade of gemstones have been attributed to poor regulation of the sector which is governed under the Precious Stones Trade (PST) Act Chapter 21:06.
Maguwu also holds that establishing a gemstone center will ensure value addition and beneficiation, job creation, increase production and attract local and regional gemstones.
In a separate interview on gemstone related matters, the first African Career Gemmologist Engineer Clever Sithole notes that: “Zimbabwe needs to initiate robust value addition and beneficiation initiatives, we need to look at how we can transform the industry such that we are not seen to be exporting rough gemstones every time.”
His standpoint is that: “Gemstones are a revenue point that have been ignored for many years in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has got a reputation of having very good gemstones like iolite, chrysoberyl, emerald and other gemstones that can earn value for the country to benefit.”
CNRG is optimistic that the study on gemstones which was supported by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime will generate discussion and interest in the gemstone mining sector.
“We have engaged MMCZ which is equally seized with the matter. I am confident there is a fair degree of awareness in government that should ensure we have a gemstone policy and legislation in the next 2 years,” Maguwu revealed.