By Gift Phiri
HARARE – As the Daily News tries to unravel Mines minister Obert Moses Mpofu’s proposed acquisition of the financially-crippled Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG), we hereby present a fact sheet on him.
Mpofu’s term as Mines minister has spawned allegations that he has failed to ensure transparency across the value chain of Marange diamonds, from extraction to the marketing of the gems, which are contributing little to the fiscus allegedly because of the murky manner in which these resources are being mined and sold.
- Mpofu, previously the governor of Matabeleland North province, was first appointed minister by President Robert Mugabe in mid-April 2005 to head the Industry and International Trade portfolio following the March 2005 legislative vote.
- Following the 2008 election where his party suffered a devastating electoral defeat, Obiza, as he is affectionately known, was appointed Mines minister in a new coalition government between his Zanu PF and Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
- Tension has been mounting between Mpofu – a staunch Mugabe ally – and Finance minister Tendai Biti over proceeds from Marange diamonds. Mpofu accuses Biti and the PM of electioneering by alleging leakages in diamond revenue, saying his ministry contributes $30 million every month to the Finance ministry.
- Mpofu, born in October 1951, started off as a civil servant in government service until 1985. He joined Tregers Group in Bulawayo, where he was the managing director from 1985. Tregers Group was one of the successful industries in Bulawayo.
- Mpofu was forced to resign from Tregers in 1988 and got a golden handshake he claims he used to start businesses. He was fired after he blew the whistle on deep-rooted corruption in the upper echelons of government and the ruling party in what came to be dubbed the “Willowgate” scandal.
Willowgate went viral after it exploded in the Bulawayo-based Chronicle newspaper and it forced Mugabe to appoint a commission of inquiry — Zimbabwe’s first judicial commission — to probe the scandal.
When the Sandura Commission, named for its chairman, Justice Wilson Sandura, completed its own hearings, five senior government ministers, including two of Mugabe’s three most senior lieutenants and a provincial governor, were forced to resign.
One of them, Maurice Nyagumbo, committed suicide.
- After getting his golden handshake from Tregers, Mpofu starts off his business venture as a pub owner, running the Green Haven in Bulawayo. Goes into cattle ranching in 1993 and amasses a massive herd believed to the biggest in Matabeleland North.
- A wealthy man, Mpofu’s major business is Kanondo Safaris – a massive hunting concession in the country’s north-west. With previously unknown involvement in Zimbabwe’s financial sector, it is his foreseen entry – at a time banks are majorly struggling – that has aroused major interest.
- As a major cattle rancher, he says he has never been a poor man.
- An alleged Mugabe informant in the Matabeleland provinces, the rotund minister is reportedly the whistle-blower behind the 1980s Willowgate scandal.
- Mpofu is also a trained journalist and owns one of Bulawayo’s tallest buildings York House – bought from Old Mutual in the late 90s. In recent months, he has been on a property buying spree in Victoria Falls, including houseboats, supermarkets and houses (for employees).
- He graduated from the Zimbabwe Open University last year with a policy studies doctorate and also claims to be a holder of two diplomas, a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees.
1966-67: Member of Zapu Youth Movement
1968: Underwent Zipra military training at Morogoro Camp in Tanzania.
1973: Left the war to undertake academic study.
1980: Active provincial member of Zanu in Matabeleland North.
1987-90: Following the signing of Unity Accord between Zapu and Zanu in 1987, Mpofu is appointed non-constituency MP in Parliament.
1990-95: Elected MP for Bubi-Umguza
2000: Lost Bubi-Umguza election to MDC.
1995-2005: Served as provincial governor and resident minister for Matabeleland North.
2005-09: Appointed Industry minister and leads a major crackdown on businesses under a ‘price monitoring regime’ created to keep commodity prices down.
2009 to date: Mines minister in Mugabe’s coalition government with Tsvangirai. Daily News
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