By Eddie Zvinonzwa
Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu — who has previously served in the Mines and Mining Development portfolio — could soon be on the radar of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) following Core Mining and Minerals (Private) Limited director Lovemore Kurotwi’s letter to the anti-graft body requesting that it investigates him over corruption.
In the letter, copied to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Finance and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa, Kurotwi says Zacc must “investigate the current minister of Home Affairs, . . . Mpofu over known corruption which he committed but which now seems to be swept under the carpet either for reasons of ignorance of the said corruption by the relevant authorities or reasons of impunity or both”.
Kurotwi says the background to this corruption was when Core Mining and Minerals was given a concession to mine diamonds at Chiadzwa.
He sensationally claimed before the concession was given, “Mpofu asked me for a bribe of $10 million”.
Kurotwi had proceeded to take up the issue with then president Robert Mugabe in Mpofu’s presence “in a meeting called by . . . Mugabe to understand what was construed as acrimony between myself and . . . Mpofu.”
“When I refused to give . . . Mpofu the $10 million bribe and after I reported to . . . Mugabe . . . Mpofu used his position of privilege to have me arrested on frivolous charges of fraud,” he alleged.
As the case was playing out before the courts, developments considered sub-judice unfolded.
First, 1,4 million carats of Core Mining’s diamonds which were in the company’s vaults in Mutare were confiscated.
Secondly, $10,6 million which was in the custody of the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe was also seized while mining equipment worth $14 million was also confiscated.
Kurotwi claims the mining equipment was initially used by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) under Marange Resources to mine diamonds in Chiadzwa and has since been transferred to the new entity, the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) which continues to illegally use the equipment to mine diamonds in Chiadzwa.
Kurotwi was arrested in 2010, along with five executives from ZMDC after Mpofu alleged that the Core Mining boss had misrepresented that he was a representative of a special purpose vehicle of Benn Steinmertz Group Resources, a South Africa-based international firm that wanted to invest $2 billion in the Chiadzwa diamond fields.
The Core Mining boss was eventually acquitted in May last year, prompting him to demand his equipment back.
Kurotwi was a Zimbabwean representative of South African Core Mining and Minerals, in a 50-50 diamond mining joint venture with the Government of Zimbabwe — Canadile Miners — which later became defunct.
The businessman lost $10 million in cash, as well as diamonds and equipment worth over $140 million when he was arrested.
Earlier efforts by Kurotwi to recover the equipment were stalled by the trial that dragged for years.
In a letter to then Mines minister Walter Chidakwa dated October 19, also copied to Mugabe and chief secretary in the President’s Office, Misheck Sibanda, Kurotwi said he was having nightmares in recovering his money after his acquittal.
“I strongly believe that your office should intervene as a matter of extreme urgency because I do not deserve to continue suffering in my country whilst my money and mining equipment was wrongly and unlawfully seized.
“This is against the principles of indigenisation as I am being disempowered in my own country,” Kurotwi said.
His appeal was actuated by Mugabe’s birthday speech where he encouraged citizens to expose corruption among senior officials.
“The events which led to my disempowerment point to a clear case of corruption by your predecessor and in light of His Excellency’s speech on his 93rd birthday, encouraging citizens to expose corrupt activities, I believe this matter should be investigated further by responsible authorities.
“I also suspect that part of the money which was confiscated by . . . Mpofu was externalised.
“Mpofu is on record for bragging about being the richest person in Zimbabwe yet ironically his so-called riches are ill-gotten as it is my hard-earned wealth which he illegally confiscated. That cannot be tenable.
“I would appreciate your response to my concerns as I believe we have a government which does not turn a blind eye when there is injustice,” he said.
This is not the first time Mpofu has come under the spotlight over his tenure at the Mines ministry.
During discussion on the national budget last week, the National Assembly — led by Mabvuku Tafara Member of Parliament James Maridadi — ratcheted up pressure on Mnangagwa, calling on him to take action against Cabinet ministers accused of improper conduct, specifically mentioning Mpofu and Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira, whom they said must be brought before the courts of law to clear their names.
The lawmakers also demanded a full investigation on former police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri, who retired from the force last month, saying the ex-police commissioner-general must account for the money he used to build a house that is “bigger than a hotel”.
In his latest fight against Mpofu, Kurotwi said he wondered how the Zimbabwean government intended to show its commitment to the security of investment for foreigners when local investors have their money and equipment seized and kept for good by government which is supposed to provide recourse in the event of disputes like the one obtaining between him government.
Currently, Mnangagwa is in Davos, Switzerland leading a Zimbabwean delegation attending the World Economic Forum.
The mission’s major thrust is Zimbabwe’s re-engagement with the West after decades of acrimony during former president Mugabe’s reign.
Key among Zimbabwe requirements for its economic revival is foreign direct investment, which has been an uphill task following concerns over the security of investment and the rule of law in the southern African country.
Kurotwi said he has tried to engage the current Mines ministry officials but they claim that they are always busy.
He has also paid the new minister, Winston Chitando, a courtesy call and even wrote him a letter but he has not bothered to respond.
“The permanent secretary (Munesushe Munodawafa) is ever busy . . . But they should remember that the revenue they are getting is ill-gotten. However, they do not seem to care. I have tried to phone (but) the permanent secretary does not even bother to return calls.
“Imagine eight years using someone’s equipment without doing anything, even acknowledging. We are told the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has sunk in so much but still we ask ‘what have they been using all along to mine beforehand?’
“Instead of protecting citizens and investors, government is acting like a shark. Those who will put in their money will do so out of ignorance.
“We are now surprised when we hear statements from senior ministers as the minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa exempting Mpofu from any wrongdoing. We wonder whether . . . Chinamasa and indeed other relevant authorities are not aware of this corruption by . . . Mpofu.
“We brought in such a huge investment after heeding the call by the Zimbabwean government to invest in our resources. But this investment is abused by the same people who are still in government today,” said Kurotwi.
Efforts to get a comment from Munodawafa were not successful as the lady who answered the phone said he was out of the office, before requesting for questions in writing.
At the time of going to print last night, the lady had responded to an email sent to the office promising to “bring it to the Permanent Secretary’s attention”. DailyNews