Nieebgate: Probe team flees gunmen

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HARARE – Investigators from Zimbabwe’s anti-corruption watchdog claim that they were on Monday and yesterday barred by gun-toting men from entering the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (Nieeb) offices in central Harare to investigate the Nieebgate Scandal.

The scandal was unearthed by the Daily News after a three-month investigation.

Armed with a search warrant from the High Court issued by Justice Charles Hungwe, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) officers were on three occasions denied entry by armed men into the Nieeb offices at the high-rise Social Security Centre.

Zacc spokesperson Goodwin Shana could neither deny nor confirm the developments.

“It is not something we are not willing to talk about at the moment. Please call the deputy chairperson for details,” Shana said.

The deputy chairperson was unreachable for comment.

National police spokesperson Charity Charamba said: “My office has not received such information but they could have spoken to officers commanding different provinces depending on which area the offences they are investigating falls.”

On February 14, the Daily News broke the Nieebgate Scandal, exposing apparent flaws in the nearly $1 billion Zimbabwe Platinum Mines Limited (Zimplats) deal — touted as the biggest empowerment deal since independence in 1980 but now turning out to be the biggest commercial scandal.

Other indigenisation deals for top-earning companies have also since been questioned, with Zacc also expected to investigate them.

The Daily News understands the Zacc had reasonable grounds to suspect that there was abuse of duty by public officers who handled the indigenisation transactions in contravention of Section 174 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23.

The Zacc officers had a search warrant to seize documents that were meant to assist them in their investigations.

Particularly, the probe team wanted a register of all mining companies that have complied with the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, copies of all agreements entered into between the mining companies and the government of Zimbabwe and communities.

The anti-corruption watchdog also wanted contract documents concerning the engagement of Top Harvest, the first private equity investment firm that stitched the first Zimplats indigenisation deal before Brainworks Capital (Private) Limited was engaged, the Daily News can reveal.

Fronted by managing partner Kura Sibanda, investment firm Top Harvest had its mandate to advise government on the Zimplats deal withdrawn in 2011 by ex-Nieeb chairman David Chapfika after receiving instructions from a named minister.”

Chapfika was later to be replaced as Nieeb chairman by retired major general Mike Nyambuya.

Zacc officers also wanted contract documents concerning the engagement of Brainworks to render consultancy services on indigenisation to the government.

From the Zimplats deal alone, Brainworks stood to pocket up to $45 million on successful completion of the deal.

Brainworks had already issued out a $17 million invoice to Zimplats which the company flatly refused to pay.

With Zimplats refusing to pick that tab, meaning taxpayers could be forced to fork out the $17 million to George Manyere’s Brainworks.

The anti-corruption czars were also looking for Community Ownership Trust documents concerning Zimplats, Unki Mine, Mimosa Mine, and Murowa Diamonds.

On Monday, Zacc was also granted a warrant to search the State-run Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) head offices along Mutare Road and the Mines and Mineral Affairs board offices at Zimre Centre in Harare.

The warrant gave them a right to seize board minutes from May 2009 to date, documents pertaining to appointments of ZMDC subsidiary board members and payments made during that era by ZMDC for legal services.

Significantly, they have also been given the green light by the Registrar of the High Court to seize “all documents pertaining to the approval of mining claims or granting of mining rights in respect to mining claims or granting of mining rights in respect to mining at Chiadzwa and Marange in Manicaland.”

The State-run ZMDC operates five joint venture mines in Marange, which produced eight million carats in 2012 and generated $685 million in exports, according to official figures, with diamond production expected to ramp up to 16,9 million carats this year.

Zacc’s search warrant also lists “letters of interest/expression of interests and evaluation reports on diamond mining in Chiadzwa and Marange and any document relating to awarding of tenders to mine in Chiadzwa or Marange Manicaland, which are concerned or on reasonable grounds are believed to be exhibits which can be used as evidence of criminal abuse of duty… and fraud as defined in Section 136(a)(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23).”

But ZMDC is said to have denied Zacc officials access to their offices claiming the judge had no jurisdiction on the matter.

ZMDC have since appealed to the Supreme Court challenging Hungwe’s judgment arguing that he could only have issued a search warrant if he was presiding over the case. – Gift Phiri and Richard Chidza

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