HARARE – Zimbabwe lawmakers have formally okayed a request by South Africa-based businessman Mutumwa Mawere to explain at a portfolio committee hearing how the government seized his Shabanie Mashaba Mines (SMM) Holdings — the country’s largest asbestos producer — in order to pay off its debts to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Mines and Mining Development parliamentary portfolio committee chairperson Temba Mliswa told the Daily News that his committee had resolved to have Mawere tender oral evidence on SMM early next year.
“We are going to invite him as per his request but we have to finish dealing with other subsidiaries of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Cooperation first before we consider SMM,” Mliswa said.
This comes after Mawere wrote to Parliament requesting to appear before the committee to talk about issues related to the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act — legislation used by the State to seize control of the shares and securities of his company.
“I am the shareholder of a company called, Africa Resources Limited (ARL), the sole shareholder of SMM Holdings Limited (SMMH) that in turn was the sole shareholder of SMM Holdings Private Limited (SMM), a company that was placed under reconstruction in terms of an order issued by then minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa, on 6 September 2004,” Mawere wrote.
“I wish to give evidence to the portfolio committee on Mines… on issues ranging from the constitutionality, process, and other issues relevant to the existence and operation of the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act.
“Should this request be granted, I shall be accompanied by my consultant who will assist on issues that may arise thereat.”
Mawere lost SMM to government in 2004 through the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act.
SMM, in Zvishavane and Mashava, ground to a halt in 2008, three years after the government seized them from Mawere, under the controversial “reconstruction” law that allows the State to take over assets of businesses deemed to be insolvent and incapable of servicing loans and charges owed to State institutions and agencies.
The mines were subsequently placed under ZMDC, which has been looking for an investor to put up $140 million required to re-open the mines.
Mawere is apparently taking advantage of the keenness on the part of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to show the world that Zimbabwe is open for business, that it respects the rule of law and wants a clean break from predecessor Robert Mugabe who was blamed for constantly undermining the Constitution.
The mothballing of SMM mines has seen workers being paid a paltry $50 a month and students moving into SMM houses in a bid to provide liquidity to the shuttered mines.
SMM at one time was the world’s sixth largest asbestos producer with an annual output exceeding 140 000 tonnes.
The self-exiled businessman lost control of SMM after government accused him of pillaging the company’s coffers to pay for his shares previously held by Turner and Newall plc, an accusation he strenuously denies.
Several legislators during the course of the eighth Parliament including the ruling Zanu PF’s John Holder who represented the area recommended that government restore Mawere’s ownership of SMM to enable the mines to reopen.
The call was, however, largely ignored by the powers that be.