HARARE – With the diamonds bribery saga raging on, President Robert Mugabe has been urged to immediately stop the rot by setting up a commission to expose the massive looting of cash and diamonds in the country.
Mugabe touched off a storm last week when he said ex-Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) boss Godwills Masimirembwa had been given a $6 million bribe by Ghanaian investors to facilitate their mining ventures in Chiadzwa.
Analysts and businesspeople who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday said this was just the tip of the vast iceberg on corruption and top-level graft going unpunished in government.
With Masimirembwa denying the president’s charge, insisting the cash was a commitment investment for the Ghanaian diamond company operating in Zimbabwe, Gye Nyame Resources, the issue has revealed a massive pattern of corruption involving the top brass.
Mugabe’s disclosures could also expose bogus transactions designed to benefit top officials and untraceable cash donations also made to the 89-year-old’s inner circle.
Gye Nyame formed a joint venture with the State-owned ZMDC, as they were required to comply with the country’s indigenisation laws.
According to Mugabe, when Gye Nyame moved to import its diamond mining equipment into the country, Masimirembwa blocked the move and insisted on receiving a massive payment first.
Although Walter Chidhakwa, the Mines minister, told the Daily News on Sunday that his ministry was giving due attention to the case, he could not divulge what kind of investigations have been conducted so far.
“We have been talking to all those involved, including ZMDC and other stakeholders, we are still interrogating the issues,” Chidhakwa said.
Lovemore Kurotwi, director of collapsed Canadile Miners, one of diamond firms that were among the first to extract Chiadzwa diamonds, said the recent exposé by Mugabe vindicates him on his earlier statements that top officials were demanding bribes to facilitate mining ventures in Marange. He said more needs to be done to cleanse the diamond mining industry.
“When I said all was not well in the ministry of Mines, I was prosecuted,” Kurotwi told the Daily News on Sunday.
“Today, things have changed. This is just a small case which is an eye opener to those who never believed what I said in 2010. I told President Mugabe that minister Obert Mpofu (then Mines minister) had demanded a bribe from me. It was never taken seriously.”
Kurotwi claimed Mpofu demanded a $10 million bribe in exchange for a mining licence.
Kurotwi wrote a letter to Mugabe in September 2010 detailing Mpofu’s alleged demands.
Kurotwi was arrested on allegations of fraud and misrepresentation of facts that authorities claimed prejudiced government of potential investment worth $2 billion. He was arrested a day after telling Mugabe that Mpofu had demanded a bribe.
“The problem that we have in this country is corruption which is perpetuated at high levels,” Kurotwi said. “This Ghanaian saga, without passing a judgment, shows a lot of misrepresentation on the part of those involved.
“This whole diamond saga tells a sad story of what has been happening in the country, particularly at the ministry of Mines. Something has to be done as a matter of urgency and this should be done in a transparent manner.”
The statement by Mugabe on Masimirembwa opened a can of worms with revelations that one of the Ghanaian investors had been convicted for illegally trading in gold and is currently on a police wanted list for breaching bail conditions set by High Court judge Hlekani Mwayera when she freed him pending his appeal against the five-year prison sentence.
Farai Maguwu, director of Zimbabwe’s Centre for Natural Resource Governance, said the recent developments in the mining sector expose how corrupt and poorly-regulated the sector was.
“Without saying Masimirembwa is wrong or not, I think it is time this country was taken seriously by those who are governing it,” Maguwu said.
“It is time we have political will to deal with corruption and get the country to benefit from our own resources. I believe the Masimirembwa case will push authorities to investigate the entire extractive sector and strengthen regulations governing the operations of our minerals."
“The outburst by Mugabe, though is surprising since corruption has been endemic and systemic in Zimbabwe’s extractive sector in recent years, resonates well with the feelings of the general public who feel Zimbabwe’s mineral wealth is benefiting political elites and corrupt foreign business entities while impoverishing communities and depriving government of revenue.
“If you were to recall, this is not the first time that we have heard such statements, we once heard about allegations of corruption in the Canadile deal, but the whistle blower is the one who was prosecuted, this must come to an end.”
Maguwu continued: “It seems the president is more concerned about how the Ghanaians were short-changed and not about how the Zimbabwean people continue to be fleeced through opaque contract negotiations which neither benefit local communities nor the economy.”
According to a report by the parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines and Energy prepared by late chairperson Edward Chindori Chininga, Parliament was barred from visiting Chiadzwa on several occasions, with the executive countenancing the snub.
Early this year, the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission obtained a search warrant to probe at least three ministers and ZMDC among others for alleged corruption in awarding mining contracts, but were blocked.
Takunda Mugaga, an economic analyst, said until serious measures were taken to address corruption which goes beyond public addresses and statements, graft will remain dominant in the country.
“What the president said could be viewed in two ways, it can be viewed as a way of cleansing himself and setting a tone for his new administration that he wants a best legacy during his last days in power,” Mugaga said.
“It should also be viewed as a sign that he has been misinformed by his advisors in the past and now things have changed. But the truth is that this is just the tip of an iceberg. There is massive corruption in this country which cannot be solved overnight.”