Nobody knows where the $334 million Zimbabwe sold in diamonds last year ended up

The boom in Zimbabwe ‘s diamond industry has not translated into improved living standards for ordinary citizens, as proceeds from gems’ sales benefit a few politically connected individuals and finance undercover security operations, AllAfrica.com reports.

These accusations come only a week after the Kimberly Process, the international diamond trade watchdog, ranked Zimbabwe the world’s fifth larger producer of gems, as it produced diamonds worth $334 million last year.

Mines minister, Obert Mpofu, has argued that Zimbabwe is set to dominate the global diamond market, especially after the Kimberly Process lifted a ban on the export of diamonds from the Marange fields.

Mining.com reported last year that Zimbabwe was set to become the world's leading diamond producer, with an expected volume of 40m carats per year worth some $2 billion annually from the rich deposits in Chiadzwa and Marange.

However, the troubled country, emerging from years of hyperinflation and political turmoil, is still one of the poorest economies in the world, with over 80% of its population living on less than a dollar a day, while health and education are in a dire state, adds AllAfrica.com.

Last month, the main teachers’ union of Zimbabwe demanded the proceeds of diamond sales be spent on their wages, adding there are no valid excuses from the government to justify their low pay and poor working conditions.

Most Zimbabweans hoped the discovery of diamonds in Marange would help them live in better conditions, but until now, little revenue is flowing into Treasury.

The Marange diamond fields are a controversial area of widespread, small-scale diamond production.  It's been repeatedly flooded with legal wrangles, government crackdowns on illegal miners and allegations of forced labour going right to the core of Robert Mugabe's government.