Kamangeni Phiri Midlands Bureau Chief—
ZIMBABWE is on course to extract the full benefits of its vast mineral reserves after securing a commitment from the Chinese government to fund a centre for cutting and polishing diamonds locally, President Robert Mugabe said yesterday. Unpacking his recent week-long state visit to China to traditional chiefs at their annual conference in Gweru yesterday, President Mugabe said the Chinese have set up an office in Harare for the diamond project.
Zimbabwe would be enlisting the help of India to train locals in diamond polishing, he explained.
He added: “We had commitments that they will come to do our roads, help us in our agriculture and work with us in our diamonds, cutting and selling. China has been working with other countries in the region like South Africa and Botswana on the cutting and polishing. They actually asked us why we were not part of the diamond cutting programme, but we explained to them that we’re still new as we only discovered our diamonds recently.
“We held a meeting in Harare about value addition today (yesterday) with delegates from the Non Aligned Movement.
“We were with Minister Olivia Muchena (Science and Technology Development) and (Walter) Chidhakwa (Mines Minister). India has a science and technology centre which offers training in cutting and polishing of diamonds. We must train our own people to cut and polish.”
President Mugabe said his government was working on value addition on all minerals including agricultural products to fulfil a commitment it made in its much-vaunted economic roadmap, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio-Economic Transformation. He said reducing the export of rough diamonds in preference to polishing and cutting them locally, for instance, would create hundreds of jobs. “Zim-Asset is about people’s livelihoods; food and nutrition.
We want food first, but for us to progress as a people be it through our minerals or our objective of selling whatever we will be selling, we need to give these added value or beneficiation,” the President told the traditional leaders.
“Cotton should not remain as cotton, it should be processed and make clothes for sale. This is the meeting we were holding in Harare before we came here. But we discussed only minerals. We discussed cutting and polishing of diamonds, so that the diamonds are used for making necklaces or designing wrist watches.”
He said SMEs and women’s cooperatives should value add products like tomatoes and make tomato sauce.
President Mugabe poked fun at the naivety of government critics whom he said expected him to come back home with boxes of cash from China.
He said the China trip was very productive as it set the course for the full implementation of Zim-Asset.
“Our trip to China was very, very productive. What happens in these negotiations is that the country you’re engaging to help you come in as a partner to you. You’re not just given money like that. Yes, we did get a little grant.”
He said as part of a grant, China was going to build a Parliament building for Zimbabwe and help construct major roads. President Mugabe said the Chinese will work on the dualisation of some of the country’s major highways like Harare to Beitbridge and Harare to Mutare.
“These projects are coming. They don’t just happen overnight. Britain, Europe and America are beginning to be worried that their place has been taken by China. They (Europe and the US) are beginning to persuade us but we will not just rush to agree to their proposals. When women are being courted, they don’t rush to accept, they say I want to consult with my sisters … we will think over it before giving them our position,” said the President.
President Mugabe said all the projects belong to the people.
He said Government was working on a reorientation of universities and colleges so that they produce more engineers and metallurgists to help value addition processes.
“We want to create employment for our people and we also need to give ourselves employment. We want engineers, for roads, electrical, mining, metallurgists and others, all these we need them. This is why we need training at universities so that we have a reorientation of our universities so that they produce these people we need. Even our scholarships should be for people who want to train in these areas.
“We no longer want people who are just clever… we want people who are intelligent in a way that helps us in mining, agriculture and other sectors. We don’t want situations where you go to university and do degrees but fail to get a job. These days we are producing graduates whose majority do business studies, accounting, these have to do with business, no. The majority of our people should be engineers of all kinds and a few do commercials,” said President Mugabe.
He said he learnt from the vice chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, Professor Levy Nyagura that most schools were shunning away from teaching mathematics and science.
President Mugabe said sciences should start at an early age where kids play with toys that cultivate interest in sciences.
The Head of State unveiled a new vehicle scheme and an increase in allowances for chiefs.
He said the chiefs should choose vehicles of their own choice and agree as a group.