To hell with your bribe – Mzembi


HARARE – Tourism and Hospitality minister Walter Mzembi has sensationally claimed listed miner RioZim Limited (RioZim) tried to bribe him with $100 000 in a bid to silence him on disturbances at its Renco Mine (Renco).

The shocking allegations come as the issue of bribery and corruption is rife in Zanu PF, with President Robert Mugabe complaining in December last year that party bigwigs were even soliciting bribes in his name.

However, RioZim managing director Ashton Ndlovu immediately rubbished the claims, saying his company does not participate in illegal activities.

“We do not participate in anything illegal and we do not pay bribes. If we are to fund any community initiative, which we have been doing since 1974, we will continue doing it in a transparent and auditable manner. I am not sure how anybody would interpret that as bribery.”

“We have included Mzembi and consulted him in our projects primarily because he is legislator for the area, and nothing more,” the RioZim boss said.

At a time the diversified miner has gone to court against interference in its operations by some of Mzembi’s Zanu PF colleagues, including Ivene Dzingirai, Ndlovu said he could only comment further after a High Court case, which opens today.

On the other hand, the Masvingo South legislator insists that the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed group is trying to sidestep labour and indigenisation rules by offering him bung money.

“They (RioZim) tried to buy me out of this case, with a $100 000 brown envelope which l turned down preferring to advance community and worker issues, which they have blatantly violated over the last 40 years,” Mzembi told the Daily News yesterday.

“This is a classic case of trying to prevent me from exercising my legitimate role of interceding on behalf of the community,” he thundered.

Amid persistent reports that the Hospitality minister and several other Zanu PF officials have been angling to grab the gold mining giant – ostensibly because it had failed to comply with the country’s indigenisation laws – Mzembi strenuously rejects the takeover bid.

“I have no intention of owning a mine. My plate is already full with my calling to represent the people, but if they expect me to turn a blind eye to (the) exploitation of our people, then they have gotten it wrong,” he said.

Mzembi further slammed the company for approaching the courts and likening his fight against the group – partly-owned by global resources giant Rio Tinto plc – to that of slain Nigerian civil rights leader Ken Saro Wiwa.

“Renco Mine is not located in newspapers, but in Masvingo, and even if we have a High Court hearing on this l will request that it be held at Renco in situ, so this group’s injustice be exposed for all to see,” he said.

“Well, if l turn out to be the Ken Saro Wiwa of Masvingo South (in pursuit of justice) so be it. Instead of resorting to this vuvuzela approach of splashing litigious adverts on this matter, they must go to the source and engage the community,” Mzembi added.

Meanwhile, the controversy comes as the minister is desperately trying to spruce up Zimbabwe’s battered image in the lead up to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) general assembly to be co-hosted with Zambia next year.

In a highly-charged e-mail seen by this paper, the ambitious politician said he had no plans to abandon the distressed workers.

“I will not be bought with filthy lucre to sell an entire constituency’s aspirations and dreams about development, which they clearly see being implemented more responsibly by other corporate citizens like Zimplats and Unki,” Mzembi said.

“Why should it (community share ownership scheme policy) work for other regions and not Masvingo, what kind of curse is this that attracts this kind of investment, which politicises clear corporate social responsibility issues?” Mzembi queried.

In recent weeks, the Masvingo South legislator said he was preparing a dossier for Mugabe’s office to investigate the diversified miner for a number of issues.

In a cautionary statement last week, RioZim said disruptions at Renco are negatively affecting its cash-flows and effort to find an amicable solution to the problems dogging the company.

As the Renco-Zanu PF legislators row rages on, Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere last week claimed he was also launching an investigation into the crisis.

Renco, founded in 2004 when the parent group sold off most of its Zimbabwean assets, produced nearly 11 000 ounces of gold in the first half of 2012 upon resumption of operations following a lull in production at the height of the country’s economic troubles.

Apart from battling politically-motivated disruptions, RioZim also faces major funding and indigenisation problems, as Mugabe’s government has forced major miners including platinum producers Anglo American and Impala Group to cede majority stakes to local investors under its empowerment drive.

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