Autocratic Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has open his country’s first military university, the National Defence College, funded to the tune of $98 million by mortgaging diamonds to China.
The college will act as a military think-tank and will only be open to high-ranking servicemen from the rank of colonel or group captain and above. Mugabe is famously paranoid about Iraq-style Western-led regime change in Zimbabwe and justified the vast expense of the college on national security grounds:
The theme that preoccupies any national defence college is that of national security aptly defined as ‘defence against challenges to a nation’s vital interests’. In this regard, both military and civilian officials share the platform availed by the National Defence College to study national security.
The $98 million used to fund the institution was loaned to Zimbabwe, which has a $400 million budget deficit, by China in 2011 at a 2% interest. Anjin, a joint Zimbabwean-Chinese venture, is mining diamonds to facilitate repayments. The diamond industry in Zimbabwe has been strongly criticised by human rights groups, who have catalogued “serious abuses by police and private security guards patrolling the joint venture territory, including setting dogs on traditional artisanal miners in the mining areas and using excessive force to clear the fields of local miners whom they accuse of illegally mining diamonds”.
Anjin in particular has been criticised for its close ties to the Zimbabwean military:
Global Witness claims that this 50-50 partnership between a Chinese engineering firm and the state owned ZMDC has “board members including senior serving and retired military and police officers.” They argue that this “creates opportunities for off budget funding of the security sector” and ” a real risk of these revenues being used to finance violence during a future election” in the country.
Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti (a member of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC rather than Mugabe’s Zanu PF) has attacked the Ministry for Mines for a failure to ensure transparency in diamond revenue accounting. Anjin, Biti claims, has failed to remit the bulk of the money it owes the state.