State-owned diamonds company fails to pay workers

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ZCDC workers
ZCDC workers

Xolisani Ncube

Workers at the state owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) have gone for three months without salaries—a development the company says is due to the current Covid-19 induced lockdown.

According to ZCDC Acting Chief Executive Officer Rob de Pretto, the gem miner is financially stressed with huge stocks of diamonds that it has but cannot auction due to the lockdowns put in place to fight coronavirus.

“Yes we have a backlog that we are dealing with. We have diamonds carats ready for auction but because buyers are not able to fly to Harare and buy our diamonds, we are not in a position to raise money to pay the workers.

“So basically, we owe our workers three months salaries and we hope that that once the lockdowns are lifted and buyers able to travel, we will clear the areas,” said Pretto.

According to sources at ZCDC, the state entity last held its diamond auction between 24 and 27 February 2020 where 414 784 carats were put to tender and more than USD$19 million realized from the sale.

At the moment, the sources told The Anchor that about one million carats of diamond have been scheduled for a private auction and four buyers from Dubai are set to participate.

But Pretto said the company had to seek a financial bailout from a bank to help the workers.

“We are a small company and we don’t have money which we could have stocked from our last sale. We largely depend on sales to finance our operations hence we owe the workers.

“As a bridge, we approached a bank for assistance and we managed to pay them at least one month’s salary but again it is not enough.

“At the moment, we are hoping to benefit from the $18 billion stimulus package that was unveiled by government to assist companies during this Covid-19 pandemic,” Pretto said.

Information available suggest that from the private sale, ZCDC was targeting to rise more than US$40 million at an average price of US$48 per carat.

On June 22 this year, according to sources, 163 000 carats of diamonds from ZCDC were moved to the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe for cleaning and valuation while plans and engagements for the private sale were underway.

The private buyers, according to sources, are set to fly into Harare via a private jet.

“I am not allowed to talk about the amount we realize from sales or release figures to the public, you can engage the permanent secretary in the ministry of Mines as he is our principal,” Pretto said.

Zimbabwe has not benefited much from diamonds due to corruption and underhand deals.

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