BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
THE Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) yesterday tried to absolve its chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara of any wrongdoing after the Lands and Agriculture Parliamentary Committee called for his arrest over a US$27 million wheat import deal.
Instead, the GMAZ accused the committee of bias and called for a new hearing.
“In light of how badly we were treated as evidence by numerous letters of complaints we wrote, we beg that the whole hearing process should be started de nuvo under a different portfolio chairmanship,” GMAZ first and second vice-presidents Masimba Dzomba and Chipo Nheta, respectively, said in a joint statement yesterday in response to the findings of the parliamentary committee presented in Parliament on November 4.
Gokwe-Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena (Zanu PF) chairs the committee.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) gave a total of US$27 million to GMAZ between 2017 and 2019 to facilitate wheat imports into the country.
Musarara appeared before the Land and Agriculture Parliamentary Committee last year, where he revealed that he used his company, Drostky Private Limited, to import the wheat.
The committee said the arrangement raised eyebrows, and recommended a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority lifestyle audit into Musarara for the period between 2018 and 2020.
But Dzomba and Nheta accused the parliamentary committee of a witch-hunt against Musarara.
“The decision to import the wheat as collective was proper and no participating wheat miller was prejudiced. All millers who participated received their wheat stocks in full. We accounted for all allocated forex to millers for the period between January 1, 2015 to March 11, 2019,” they said.
“The wheat was procured on an unsecured loan facility arranged by our lead negotiator, the chairman (Musarara) and the supplier made Drotsky (Private) Limited a consignee. This arrangement secured adequate national wheat supplies and by extension, bread at that material time. The key parties to this agreement are millers, wheat supplier, remitting banks and RBZ. It should be noted that none of the above is aggrieved in this matter.”
The committee said police and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission should investigate circumstances that led to Drotsky being the vehicle used to import wheat on behalf of the millers.
But Dzomba and Nheta said: “We confirm that our national chairman acted on behalf of the members from whom he derives his mandate and, therefore, all transactions were executed in a representative capacity and not in a personal capacity.”
Musarara told the committee that the association did not get US$27 million, but US$26,1 million from the central bank.
He said GMAZ also gave the Grain Marketing Board US$9 million for the maintenance of its silos.
But the committee said the GMAZ chairperson should be charged with contempt of Parliament after lying under oath “to ensure that the sacrosanct oversight role of Parliament is respected”.
In its findings, the committee raised concern that Musarara demonstrated unwillingness to assist in its investigations, obfuscating and outrightly refusing to produce documentation pertinent to the probe.