via Police hunt down British journalists | Sunday Mail Reporter
Police in Harare have launched a manhunt for British journalists Jerome Starkey and Jan Raath for spreading falsehoods that Zimbabwe signed a secret deal to export uranium to Iran for the manufacture of “a nuclear weapon”. In a case likely to embarrass the British media, outgoing Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Mr Gift
Chimanikire yesterday denied statements the journalists attributed to him confirming the said deal.
Mr Chimanikire, in an interview with The Sunday Mail, described the story as “silly, speculative and dangerous”. The Secretary for Mines and Mining Development, Mr Prince Mupazviriho, also revealed that Zimbabwe does not have a uranium mine.
While police remained tight-lipped last night for fear of jeopardising investigations, impeccable sources privy to the case said law enforcement agents were keen to interview the two scribes and Mr Chimanikire.
In a story published under the headline “Mugabe signs secret deal to sell uranium to Tehran” in British newspaper The Times yesterday and picked by numerous news agencies, Starkey and Raath alleged the Government undertook to supply Iran raw materials for nuclear weapon production in breach of international sanctions .
Quoting Mr Chimanikire, the two journalists, who co-authored the article with Michael Evans and Hugh Tomlinson, also wrote that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed last year to facilitate the exports.
The article could undermine Zimbabwe’s foreign relations.
The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme citing fears that Tehran intends to construct a bomb.
Iranian authorities have, however, since made it clear that the programme seeks to harness energy.
Mr Mupazviriho dismissed the journalists’ report as false, adding that Zimbabwe does not even have a uranium mine.
“That is a blatant lie. Whoever is saying that is being malicious. We have never issued any licence to any Iranian company. We do not have any uranium mine at the moment,” said Mr Mupazviriho, who also chairs Zimbabwe’s Mining Affairs Board, which, among other duties, considers mineral exports.
Mr Chimanikire said Government has not issued uranium mining licences since exploration was still being conducted in Kanyemba, Zambezi Valley.
He said Starkey deliberately misrepresented information he gave him in an interview last Thursday to tarnish the image of Zimbabwe.
“I wouldn’t have said that (the alleged uranium deal). No licence has been issued. I never said such a silly thing. We are exploring and not mining. He thought of selling his paper by being untruthful. I tried to call him after hearing about the article, but his phone is not reachable.
“It is a speculative and dangerous story. We have nothing to export because we have not mined. He just showed the typical mentallity bent on saying negative things about Zimbabwe.”
Mr Chimanikire, a high-ranking MDC-T official, said Starkey approached him for the interview while also clearly demonstrating a preconceived agenda to soil Zimbabwe’s diamond trade.
“That journalist was very notorious (mischievous). His name is Jerome Starkey, the Africa correspondent for The Times of London. He came to my office on Thursday asking whether Zimbabwe’s economy would recover.
“I gave him a synopsis of the mining sector. I told him that figures released at the recent Mine Entra showed that we need US$5 billion to recapitalise the sector. His (Starkey’s) thrust was to say diamonds are being stolen. So, I told him that: ‘No, there is no proof.’”
He added: “I also told him of our mineral reserves and that exploration is yet to be conducted in some areas. When I told him that uranium exploration was taking place in Kanyemba, Zambezi Valley, he then asked who our customers were and whether Iran was among them.
“I told him ‘no’, we do not determine customers; we market through the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe. I also pointed out that in any case, we cannot be in a position to export uranium. I also mentioned that the Iranians were into textiles here.
“He then insisted on allegations of diamond theft to which I replied saying inspectors are allowed to go into Chiadzwa (Diamond Fields).”