By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
04 April 2014
The new Indigenisation Minister has called on mining firms to pay up the $10 million they each promised to pay into Community Share Ownership Trusts, as part of a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’.
Minister Francis Nhema is under fire from the Parliamentary Committee on Youth and Indigenisation, over the failure of the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust to pay out the millions allegedly pledged by mining firms.
The Ownership Trust was launched by Robert Mugabe in 2012, with a US$50 million kitty that was promised would be used for development projects in Marange. The multimillion dollar cash injection was allegedly the result of ‘contributions’ by the mining firms operating at the Chiadzwa diamond mines. The cash had allegedly been promised by five mining firms as part of efforts to ensure proceeds from the diamonds benefitted the local communities.
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. Nhema’s predecessor, Saviour Kasukuwere, was last month also accused of ‘lying’ to Robert Mugabe, when he presented a false multi-million dollar cheque to him in 2012 as part of the Trust’s launch.
Mining officials, who appeared before a parliamentary committee on Mines, 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. Acting Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda has said if it is proved that the officials lied to the legislators they could be charged with perjury.
Minister Nhema has now been caught up in the fallout of the parliamentary probe, insisting that the Marange mining firms and others who pledged to donate to the nationwide 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.
“The spirit of the agreement, the spirit of the discussion was that they would pay $10 million. We don’t have pledges written but we have minutes. I believe it’s a gentlemen’s agreement, they were in the meeting, they shook their hands, they should honour their obligation,” Nhema told the parliamentary committee this week.
Committee chairperson ZANU PF Mayor Wadyajena asked whether government worked on gentlemen’s agreements.
“The government operates on goodwill sir. That is why we still accepted the $10 million from Unki (mine) without any written agreement,” Nhema said, adding that the companies still had to ‘honour’ their promises.
According to Nhema, 13 mining companies have paid a total of $31 million to the different Community Ownership Share Trusts. Of the 13 companies only Unki Mine paid the full amount of $10 million. Zimplats reportedly paid $6 million; Blanket Mine $5 million; Mimosa $4 million; Freda $1 million; Rio Tinto owned Murowa Diamonds $300,000; Mbada $200,000 and Marange Resources $200,000.
James Mupfumi, the Acting Director of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), told SW Radio Africa that the Trusts were 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.