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NEW Manicaland provincial affairs minister, Mandi Chimene, was talking tough on Friday as she addressed companies digging up the reputed diamond riches in the province's Marange district.

"Mind your language and take care of your politics," Chimene told company executives who attended the meeting.

In case that was not clear enough, she added: "If you recruit people from the opposition we are at crossroads.

"....but if you employ youths from Zanu PF I will give you credit because I am employed by the same party. If you make your companies safe haven for the opposition, be warned."

The meeting was attended by executives from Mbada Diamonds, Kusena, DMC, Marange Resources, the Russian-owned DTZ-OZGEO and officials from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.

Most of the companies operating in Marange are 50-50 joint ventures between private companies and the government through the State-run Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).

Although former mines minister Obert Mpofu famously boasted that Zimbabwe would no longer beg the world for help after the Marange gem discovery, the country has little to show for the diamond wealth and most of the population struggle with abject poverty.

Mpofu claimed that Zimbabwe would earn at least US$2 billion annually from Marange but the government has perpetually struggled for money since and now resorts to taxing street vendors in order to pay its workers.

While he was finance minister in the coalition government, opposition leader Tendai Biti said what little revenue was generated at Marange had been diverted from treasury to fund Zanu PF activities.

Meanwhile, Chimene ordered the diamond companies pay up their contributions to the $50 million Zimunya-Marange Community Share Ownership Trust (ZMCSOT) or face consequences she did not specify.

"I am giving you one and half months to pay the full amount to the trust. This is not negotiable. The communities should get their share. If you can`t pay the full amount please come to my office for a payment plan," said Chimene.

The minister said if the companies could not pay in cash they could always remit 10 percent of their gems after sorting to her office.

She would then find alternative markets to sell the diamonds and hand the proceeds over to local communities.

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