By Lance Guma
While the rest of the world was focused on the controversy of the MDC-T objecting to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting Zimbabwe to open the Trade Fair in Bulawayo, behind closed doors deals were allegedly being made to allow Iran to mine Zimbabwe’s untapped uranium deposits. According to a report in the UK Daily Telegraph Iran is desperate to secure raw material for its expanding and controversial nuclear programme, while Zimbabwe wants oil in return.
On Monday Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube dismissed the report as ‘not true.’ He was keen to stress, ‘no such agreement was signed. There is no certainty that Zimbabwe has uranium deposits. You first have to prove that there are uranium deposits and that has not been done.’ Ncube a Minister from the smaller Mutambara MDC, added that the two countries had only signed general cooperation agreements in the fields of energy, science and technology and agriculture.
But the Daily Telegraph report suggests that former state security minister Didymus Mutasa, now the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, traveled to Iran last month to seal the deal. A source who spoke to the paper said ‘that is when the formal signing of the deal was made, away from the glare of the media.’ Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba added fuel to the speculation when he said although the issue of Zimbabwe’s mining rights had not yet been finalized, Iran had a right to apply for them.
On Thursday the MDC-T snubbed the arrival ceremony of Ahmadinejad at Harare International Airport, describing the visit as a ‘scandal.’ Inviting Ahmadinejad to an investment forum was like ‘inviting a mosquito to cure malaria,’ they said.
Undeterred ZANU PF went on to accord the Iranian leader a 21-gun salute and inspection of a guard of honour. Ahmadinejad later toured Chitungwiza based textile company Modzone, which is financed by Iran. He also toured Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries, which Iran is reportedly keen on investing in.
Whatever the truth of the uranium deal, Mugabe’s regime is not likely to admit selling any to Iran. Under United Nations sanctions imposed in December 2006, all countries are ordered to ‘prevent the supply, sale or transfer … of all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology which could contribute to Iran’s enrichment-related, reprocessing or heavy water-related activities.’
Even if Zimbabwe doesn’t accord uranium mining deals in the country to Iran, there is still the Democratic Republic of Congo. Due to it’s support of the war in the late 90’s Zimbabwe was given many mining concessions in the DRC. It was well known that Zimbabwean troops were guarding a uranium mine there and that the Zimbabwe airforce set up flights between the capital Kinshasa and Harare to ‘facilitate trade. A number of senior military figures and companies in Zimbabwe were, and continue to be, involved. http://www.swradioafrica.com