LONDON – President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidential exit is all but sealed amid reports that China will likely help in his removal from office, after he recently allegedly angered Beijing by giving exclusive diamond exploration and mining rights to Russia ahead of the Asian powerhouse, Spotlight Zimbabwe, has been told.
Mnangagwa’s tenure in office is already hanging by a thread, as a faction in the military close to Vice President, Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga, wants him to voluntarily resign and make way for Chiwenga, after he has dismally failed to resuscitate the country’s economy, which is now nearing total collapse in the face of the worst and unseen power outages in the nation’s history of up to 18 hours a day, growing fuel and water shortages, a wave of extortionate taxes by his regime, and uncontrollable price escalations.
According to diplomatic sources in the capital, diamond company executives and an official in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), who survived Mnangagwa’s purges after former leader, President Robert Mugabe’s ouster in November 2017, China is upset with the ruling Zanu PF leader, and she is reportedly about to play a hidden hand in his removal from power, as Mnangagwa has reneged on a political deal to give China unlimited and preferential access to Zimbabwe’s vast diamond deposits.
Last week Mnangagwa’s administration gave Russian diamond exploration and mining giant Alrosa, a massive 70 percent stake in a joint venture with government owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) in Manicaland with a contract provision for possible expansion across the territory of the whole country. Alrosa is the world leader in diamond mining, accounting for over 25% in the global diamond production in terms of carats.
Russia is the world’s biggest diamond miner, while China is the world’s second biggest diamond consumer market after the US.
Prior to Alrosa’s Zimbabwe entry, China had enjoyed access to mining diamonds in Marange, which is thought to be home to the globe’s biggest diamond find carats wise in more than a century, with plans by Beijing to explore other deposits in the country, before it’s flagship diamond mining firm in the area, Anjin Investments, had it’s licence controversially terminated by Mugabe in 2015 over accusations of diamond looting and corruption.
Anjin is a joint venture between a Chinese company, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Co. Ltd., and Matt Bronze Enterprises, which was formed by the Zimbabwe Defense Ministry and the Zimbabwe Defense Forces through an intermediary company.
“China though they might say otherwise actually removed Mugabe over the fallout in Marange diamonds mining,” said one of the envoys last week. “From what we understand in our circles your new leader made a political deal with the Chinese, to grant them exclusive diamond mining and exploration rights in Zimbabwe post-Mugabe, as they had facilitated his passage to becoming president. However he appears to have reneged on the pact, and has decided to choose Russia over China, now that’s a very dangerous game and they (China) will help remove him (Mnangagwa), because their economic interests in your country are increasingly coming under threat, from the Russians and the West. China is the one keeping Zimbabwe running, and they will make sure that a leader who protects their interests is in power.”
China has over the years and before his dethronement, funded Mugabe’s presidential campaigns and Zanu PF’s power retention agenda, through the direct intervention of the Chinese Communist Party, and financial support said to have topped US$1 billion from diamonds alone, according to news organisation 100Reporters.
A diamond company executive based in the port city of Antwerp, in Belgium, with close links to a former presidium member, yesterday in a telephone briefing told Spotlight Zimbabwe that, Mnangagwa had courted Alrosa and favoured them with diamond mining in Zimbabwe instead of China, because he wanted political and financial support from Russia in his bid to run for a second term as president in 2023, but the whole strategy will backfire.
“The Chinese have written Mnangagwa off and are not interested in funding his stay in office anymore,” said the executive. “He has courted Alrosa with the intention to receive funding and support from Russia, in his remote bid to remain president and run again as Zanu PF’s 2023 presidential candidate, because China stopped to bankroll the ruling party when Mugabe chased their companies away from mining diamonds in Marange. It’s going to backfire, and he’ll soon be desposed as leader. China made his presidency, and they’re now going to annul it over the war on Zimbabwe diamonds with Russia.”
The OPC official said the recent Alrosa joint venture with ZCDC in Manicaland, and another US$3 billion platinum project with Russia in Darwendale, has won Mnangagwa invitation to the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit in October in Sochi, but he might not be in office or it will be his very first and last Russia-Africa Summit, as he was definately leaving the presidency in 2020, whether he liked it or not.
“The Chinese are not happy with Mnangagwa because of the diamonds saga,” said the OPC staffer. “Even communication channels are no longer direct, these days. President Mugabe always had a direct line to speak with the Chinese leader, but now we have to go through the Chinese Embassy, that tells you that all is not well. He’s definately leaving the presidency in 2020, whether he likes it or not, but you already know that.”
Outspoken Independent legislator for Norton, Temba Mliswa, last month warned that Mnangagwa faces the danger of either being captured or removed by Chinese nationals operating various businesses in Zimbabwe.
Speaking in parliament on a point of privilege, Mliswa accused the Chinese of disrespecting the laws of Zimbabwe.
“Government must review relations with China. I was kidnapped yesterday (Wednesday) in my constituency. Chinese have no respect for the laws of this country. Today it is Mliswa but next it will be the President (Mnangagwa) Mr Speaker Sir,” Mliswa said.
China has previously been accused of orchestrating Mugabe’s removal via a military coup, but has vehemently denied any involvement, calling such speculation “complete nonsense, and purely fictitious”.
It’s embassy in South Africa during the time said in a statement: “Some people are trying to link China to the political crisis that is taking place in Zimbabwe in order to drive a wedge between China and Africa and to undermine China’s image.” Such allegations were “illogical, inconsistent and filled with evil motives”.
“China has long enjoyed friendly relations with Zimbabwe. When Zimbabwe was facing isolation and sanctions from the west, China stood firm on its principles and remained by Zimbabwe’s side, developing mutually beneficial cooperation, which brought benefits to both countries and peoples.”
Alrosa says it has targeted various areas for further diamond exploration. The company’s chief executive officer Sergey Ivanov told State media last week, that: “We expect to have more than four spots in Zimbabwe where we see potential and where we need to invest in exploration. We hope to get discoveries in all these. We see some exploration perspectives on the border with South Africa, the border with Botswana, (the) border with Mozambique; we see that there are some promising geological data and perspectives for new discoveries,” Ivanov was quoted.
They have been reports of recent diamond deposits and discoveries in the Sese area of Chivi, Masvingo Province, Chihota in Marondera West and Penhalonga just outside Mutare.
Information minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, whose husband is a former Zimbabwean Ambassador to China, was not reachable for comment last night, while the Chinese Embassy was closed.