Porous borders blamed for mineral leakages
THE Minerals and Border Control Unit has admitted that the country’s borders are porous and that the law should be amended to reduce leakages in the mining sector.
The revelations were made on Monday when the unit appeared before the Mines and Energy Committee.
The committee wanted to find out why there were mineral leakages despite the existence of the MBCU, which is responsible for ensuring that minerals are protected.
The MBCU claimed they were not adequately resourced to stop the leakages.
Retired Senior Assistant Commissioner Silence Pondo, who was in charge of the unit from 2006 to 2014, admitted the borders were porous.
“In terms of leakages our border is porous. It is porous to the extent that, for example, in the Beitbridge area you cannot cover the whole stretch of the border,” he said.
“This unit in other countries is given a retention of five percent of the recoveries. In other countries such as South Africa, they have minerals fingerprinting machines trough which they are able to detect if the mineral is from their country or not,” he said.
“We had a case involving one of our neighbouring countries where we had enough evidence that the gold (120kg) smuggled was ours but we could not satisfy that country that the gold was ours.
“If we had this machine, it was going to be easy for us to do that,” he said.
The other issue that emerged was that police were also being paid allowances by the mining companies. This compromised them. “In terms of the regulations this is normal even in football police officers are paid as private duty although overall it is the duty of police to look after lives and property,” he said.
Rtd Asst Comm Alson Mpofu said police were at the mines but did not interfere with the operations leaving a loophole.
“Yes, there are leakages when it involves minerals. Minerals on their own are almost ready cash and while you are dealing with high value minerals means the police deployed on the site also need to be paid so that they are not compromised.
“There were instances when diamonds where escorted from Chiadzwa to Harare and police officers escorting the minerals were paid by the mining companies and that compromises their duties and it impedes good governance,” he said.
Rtd Ass Comm Mpofu said the responsibility of managing the border did not have to fall under the Minerals Unit.
“The Minerals Unit should concentrate only on minerals. The border unit deals with flora, fauna and poaching and this tends to overstretch the unit which is under-resourced. They are not highly mobile. They do not have travel and subsistence allowances for officers deployed and that alone is a problem,” he said.
“We have a handicapped unit which does not have reliable vehicles to police or patrol and do not have money to pay informers,” he said.
Ass Comm Mpofu said although there was some success in terms of arrests, the unit could not secure convictions because of the laws.
“Our laws are flawed - the laws that govern the mines and mineral activity. If the law giver does not amend the law it impedes the activities of the police trying to curb leakages of diamonds and minerals,” he said.
Zvishavane Ngezi legislator Cde John Holder said Murowa Diamonds never relied on police officers for security and had an efficient CCTV.
“Why is it that it is not the same with Chiadzwa and Marange? The loopholes are created in order to loot. It is legalised illegal mining,” he said.