ZANU PF minister accused of ‘dishonesty’ in mining trust case

via ZANU PF minister accused of ‘dishonesty’ in mining trust case | SW Radio Africa  by Alex Bell on Monday, April 7, 2014

Former Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere is again facing accusations of dishonesty and lying, in the ongoing probe into the failed Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust.

The Ownership Trust was launched by Robert Mugabe in 2012, with a ‘pledge’ of US$50 million to be used for development projects in Marange. The multimillion dollar cash injection was allegedly the result of ‘contributions’ by the five mining firms operating at the Chiadzwa diamond mines.

Minister Kasukuwere was one of the architects of the deal, and during the Trust launch he presented Mugabe with a cheque for $50 million.

But two years later it has emerged that out of the ‘promised’ amount, only $400,000 was remitted, with officials from the mining firms distancing themselves from claims that they had pledged $10 million each. Some officials reportedly said they only pledged $1.5 million each, while others professed complete ignorance of the existence of the Trust.

Kasukuwere has since produced “evidence” and the agreements he made with the mining firms. These letters, according to the Minister, were written to then Mines Minister Obert Mpofu and the Mbada Diamonds boss, indicating that the companies in Marange were each to contribute $10 million.

But Kasukuwere’s successor Francis Nhema has since told a parliamentary committee that there is no proof of the letters.

“I have checked with all the files at the ministry. It seems I cannot locate them,” Nhema said last week.

He added: “I have even asked officials whether the letters are there. The problem is that there is no reference, no date stamp to authenticate the letters. I have checked with many files I don’t know if they are there.”

Minister Nhema also insisted last week that the Marange mining firms (and others who pledged to donate to the nationwide Community Share Trusts), violated a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ with the government. He said that mining companies operating in Zimbabwe had made the pledge, as part of the ZANU PF ‘empowerment’ initiative.

Farai Maguwu, the Director of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance, said on Monday that the Trust saga “vindicates what we have been saying that the mining sector has nothing to do with benefitting the real people on the ground.”

“I’m happy these companies did not pay money into those Trusts, because clearly the money was targeted for looting. The communities were not involved at all in the management of the Trust, and it is clear that the money was never going to reach them,” Maguwu told SW Radio Africa.

The board of the Marange-Zimunya Trust has already faced serious questions from legislators, particularly regarding the spending of $45,000 in the last seven months. Although whatever money given to the board is supposed to be spent on community development, the Trustees have admitted spending over US$17,000 on board fees, about US$14,500 on travelling and subsistence and about US$13,000 on training.

“This case has opened up a can of worms, the Pandora’s box, and gives us an insight into the nature of the extractive sector in Zimbabwe, which does not serve communities in any way,” Maguwu said.