By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
10 March 2014
ZANU PF Minister Saviour Kasukuwere was this weekend accused of ‘lying’ to Robert Mugabe, when he presented a false multi-million dollar cheque to him in 2012.
The cheque, which Kasukuwere (then Indigenisation Minister) handed over to Mugabe when the ZANU PF leaders launched the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust, was reportedly worth $50 million.
At the time, the money had allegedly been promised by five mining firms operating at the Chiadzwa diamond fields as part of efforts to ensure proceeds from the diamonds benefitted the local communities.
The Herald then reported this weekend that the money was never handed over, was never agreed to by the five firms and the cheque given to Mugabe was ‘fake’. The newspaper quoted officials from the firms, who refuted the claims that they agreed to give $10 million each to the Trust. Some officials reportedly said they only pledged $1.5 million each, while others professed complete ignorance of the existence of the Trust.
The newspaper also named Minister of State for Manicaland Province, Christopher Mushowe, in the ‘scam’ after he allegedly ordered one of the firms to deposit money into an account he provided, effectively sidestepping the Marange-Zimunya Trust.
James Mupfumi, the Acting Director of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), told SW Radio Africa that the Trust was never set up with the benefit of the affected villagers in mind. He called it “political grandstanding” with officials and government ministers trying to curry favour with Mugabe.
“I am not surprised that the money never materialised. In Marange even the diamond firms and their deals are shrouded in secrecy and the communities were just thrown (in) the dustbin. The ministers were only wanting to please Mugabe,” Mupfumi said.
The Herald meanwhile hastened to remove the article from its website shortly after it was published. Editor Caesar Zvayi said on Facebook: “The story had several holes and was erroneously uploaded on the website before it was ready for publication which is why it wasn’t in the Saturday paper. Nothing sinister about the take-down.”
Meanwhile, the board of the Marange-Zimunya Trust has faced serious questions from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, particularly regarding the spending of US$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.