Robert Mugabe Skips $15 Billion Diamond Hearing Because ‘9 A.M. Is Too Early’

Lawmakers are planning to quiz Mugabe over his 2016 claim that Zimbabwe lost $15 billion in revenue due to corruption and foreign exploitation in the diamond sector

Former Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe skipped a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday investigating $15 billion worth of lost diamonds because the nine o’clock start was allegedly a “bit too early” in the morning for him.

Mugabe, 94, was scheduled to give evidence on corruption in the diamond mining industry at 9 a.m. on Thursday morning but failed to show up, meaning the hearing was adjourned until Monday.

“We’ve considered that 9 a.m. may be rather early for Mr. Mugabe to appear,” said Temba Mliswa, the Zimbabwean lawmaker heading the inquiry. “This isn’t a witch hunt or to seek to cause embarrassment. … We remain respectful whilst we exhaust all options.”

“We are not here to humiliate him, we expect him to have enough time to prepare. So on Monday at 2 p.m. we expect him here,” Mliswa said, but admitted that Mugabe has no legal obligation to show up.

The inquiry was set up in light of comments made by Mugabe that Zimbabwe had lost $15 billion in diamond revenue because of corruption and foreign meddling, but has since dismissed the figure as “urban legend.”

“Companies that have been mining diamonds have robbed us of our wealth,” Mugabe was quoted as saying in 2016. “That is why we have now said the state must have a monopoly.”

Around ten years ago, miners discovered that Zimbabwe had some of the most valuable diamond reserves in the world, but the discovery has led to much internal conflict. Individuals involved in the trade have repeatedly accused his regime of illegally taking off profits, mainly with the help of Chinese mining firms.

Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe from 1980 until last November, when he was ousted in a military coup by his former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has pledged to hold elections later this year expected to be won easily by his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party.

So far, his agenda has mainly involved a crackdown on corruption to make the country more attractive to foreign investment.

Mugabe, meanwhile, has disappeared from the public eye. However, he has thrown his support behind a splinter group of the ZANU-PF representing those who feel “outraged by the unconstitutional and humiliating manner in which President Mugabe was criminally ousted from leadership.”

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