By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
30 July, 2014
Zimbabwe’s former minister of mines Obert Mpofu has admitted under oath that he ran the country’s diamonds sector alone for a period of four months, after firing the entire board when he took office back in 2009.
Mpofu also revealed shocking details of how there were no minutes taken during meetings with potential investors in that period, meaning there is no official record of what happened and only his personal notes exist as evidence.
Mpofu at the time ran the government’s Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), which oversaw all diamond mining in the country.
The wealthy minister is testifying in a fraud case currently at the High Court, where the director of Core Mining, Lovemore Kurotwi, is co-accused with former ZMDC chief Dominic Mubaiwa, of “misrepresenting facts” in a $2 billion merger of the two firms.
The merger created the now shut down Canadile Mining in Chiadzwa and Mpofu is alleged to have demanded a $10 million dollar bribe to help facilitate the deal. But he has denied the allegations and reportedly boasted that he is too rich to solicit bribes.
As the accusations go, Mpofu was quoted as having said: “Rangu basa ndapedza chindipai mari/cut yangu”, meaning “I have done my job now give me my money”.
Responding to cross-examination by Kurotwi’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, Mpofu would not be drawn to explain why he had fired the ZMDC board. He simply replied that he had the power to do so as Minister and had broken no laws.
Political analyst Bekithemba Mhlanga said he was not surprised by Mpofu’s testimony, but was concerned at the lack of expertise and professionalism in how the country is currently being run. This is especially rampant at public institutions, most of which are failing.
“One is actually taken aback that a single individual was in a position to make decisions of such grave consequence for Zimbabwe’s economic well-being” Mhlanga said.
Back in 2010, Mpofu told a parliamentary committee that he had not followed proper procedure in licensing Canadile and Mbada Diamonds, claiming government would have lost much needed revenue if the opportunity was lost.
He also admitted that he was aware of “shady” business dealings by some of the directors of Canadile and Mbada and suggested that all diamond investors were crooked and that this was a worldwide trend.
The trial of Kurotwi and Mubaiwa has dragged on since 2009, with Mpofu implicated in fraudulent dealings by the accused. But the powerful minister appears to be untouchable, confirming suspicions that a number of top government chefs are involved as they also profited from illegal diamond deals.