By Chengetai Zvauya, Senior Writer
HARARE – Libya’s new rulers have agreed to investigate what they believe to be shady deals struck between fallen dictator Muammar Gaddafi and President Robert Mugabe’s regime.
In a report to Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), sacked Libyan ambassador to Zimbabwe Taher Elmagrahi recommended the cancellation of all business deals entered into between Gaddafi and the then Zanu PF government.
Mugabe, one of Gaddafi’s closest friends, expelled Elmagrahi and four other senior diplomats early last month for flying the NTC flag at the Harare embassy.
Spokesman for the diplomats, Mohammad Elbarat told the Daily News yesterday by phone from Tripoli that the NTC would dig into deals that were done under the table.
He said the diplomats suspected foul play because Gaddafi and his family never made public the investments they made in Zimbabwe’s petroleum, mining, agriculture and tourism sectors.
“The NTC will investigate whether state funds were not abused by the Gaddafi family to amass wealth in Zimbabwe, said Elbarat.
“We have asked the NTC to cancel all the deals that Gaddafi made with Mugabe’s government, and the NTC has agreed since Mugabe’s government is refusing to recognise the NTC,” said Elbarat.
“These deals were not done in good faith and we want the NTC‘Cancel Mugabe, Gaddafi deals’ to investigate them because we had no documents to follow the transactions and this must be made clear on who benefited and for what purpose,” said Elbarat.
The NTC is the governing arm of rebels that have overrun Gaddafi in most of Libya and is now recognised by many international powers, including in the Arab world and parts of Africa.
The decision to investigate Gaddafi deals in Zimbabwe is the first boomerang effect of Mugabe’s decision to expel the Libyans.
There are few known Libyan investments in Zimbabwe. One of them, a 14 percent stake in a local bank through Libya’s central bank, will remain unaffected by the power shift in Tripoli, according to a bank official.
As part of Mugabe and Gaddafi’s enduring friendship, Libya provided millions of dollars in direct aid and vast quantities in subsidised fuel to Harare. The US State Department says Libya at one time supplied 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s fuel.
Sacked Libyan diplomats however, think their country’s money could have been sunk in Zimbabwe for the personal benefit of Gaddafi and his close family. It is those deals that the NTC has agreed to investigate.
In an interview with the Daily News before his departure, Elbarat claimed Gaddafi and his family travelled to Harare on different occasions. But they kept the embassy in the dark about deals they would have signed with Mugabe’s regime.
“Gaddafi was treating these investments as his personal property,” he said, accusing Mugabe of being stuck in the past. Mugabe and Gaddafi are some of the few coterie of continental leaders that have hung on to power for over 30 years.
“We briefed the NTC leadership of what happened to us on how we were forced to leave Zimbabwe,” said Elbarat.
“We are taking advice from the NTC which is now running Libya and your government wants to remain struck in the past with diplomatic relations with Gaddafi who is no longer in charge of the country,” he said.
Elbarat’s team was forced to travel by road to Botswana before catching a connecting flight to Cairo after being given 72 hours to leave Zimbabwe.
“We travelled from Egypt to Tripoli by road as the airport is still closed,” said Elbarat.
“All the Libyan embassies worldwide have hoisted the new flag and no one among the diplomats were forced back home as what happened to us. We are not trying to cause a diplomatic row with your government but it must realise that it does not help to have relations with Gaddafi,” said Elbarat. Daily News