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Mining scandals need commission of inquiry

By Tawanda Majoni

I find it shocking that our government let a private foreign consultancy run away with crucial and sensitive information regarding intelligence on Zimbabwe’s mineral resources.

Tawanda Majoni
Tawanda Majoni

That is what Fred Moyo, the Mines Minister, told Parliament last week, and I don’t have any reason to doubt him.

In case you missed it, Moyo said the government contracted a Canadian firm to conduct aeromagnetic surveys for minerals, but they fled with all the data and Harare is now frantically hunting for with.

There is no prize for guessing here. A shadowy foreign company now knows more about Zimbabwe’s minerals than we do ourselves.

Worse still, it might take a very long while to set up local structures to glean this vital information. That means we will continue to fumble in the dark to manage our own minerals, depending on guesswork. This is likely to suit some greedy politicians who have a propensity to feed in the dark.

I am not sure if Fred Moyo has been told the whole truth, though. It remains highly likely that some of the key government officials who were working with the Canadian firm have the information tucked away in a corner for a variety of reasons.

I would not be surprised if clandestine mining was going on in several parts of the country without anyone’s knowledge, thanks to the hidden data. The local mafia could also be holding onto the information for speculative reasons. Worse still, it is possible that the information is being cached by some weevils who want to sabotage economic recovery for selfish gains.

It boggles the mind why government decided to leave the job of exploring for minerals entirely to a foreign company in the first place.

A clever government would be involved all the way through. Mining is a sensitive sector, considering especially the fact that it accounts for about 50 percent of foreign earnings and could be generating far more if weevils were not running it.

How the unnamed consultants could stroll past the gates at the Harare International Airport into the business class of a waiting plane with volumes of mining data adds to the mystery. That makes a big statement about our airport security and national intelligence. Either the system is just rotten or it is vulnerable to manipulation by big shots who benefit from shoddy deals that jeopardise the country and the economy.

Tales have been told of some political sharks, some of them now filthy rich or dead, who used to escort containers of diamonds smuggled from the DRC via our airport during the war in that country.

We are also owed an explanation as to why it has taken so long to reveal the scandal involving the vague mining consultants, who were engaged by government as far back as 1985. We have had a series of mines ministers over the almost 30-year period and, all along, it seemed as though everything was in order.

Was the information on the cheating consultants being deliberately hidden? Was President Mugabe told about it? If so, what did he do with the responsible ministers and other local stakeholders? Clearly, this is a shocking scandal which needs the sternest action.

Those in government who let it happen must face the music. They need to be investigated – by a full and independent commission of inquiry. A lot of bad things have happened in the mining industry, particularly in diamond mining.

Gems have been stolen or smuggled, revenue diverted and individuals have benefited. Some of them now own banks and are fast turning into media moguls. They have bought whole towns, literally. Chickens must be driven home to roost. The Zimbabwean

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