By Lance Guma
24 February 2010
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu brought business to a standstill at Halsted Brothers in Bulawayo last Friday when he splashed out US$40 000 in cash to buy ‘gardening equipment and other hardware.’ Our correspondent Lionel Saungweme reports that everyone inside the shop was shocked to see the Minister bring out such huge sums of money. Shop attendants had to focus on serving Mpofu’s huge order while other customers could only look on and wait. Newsreel was not able to establish where he was taking the equipment to.
Only last week the Supreme Court issued a second order for Mpofu to return 29 kilograms of diamonds he, along with a senior police officer, took from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The court had initially ordered the gems valued at US$18 million to be kept at the central bank for safekeeping pending the resolution of a court case involving African Consolidated Resources (ACR) and the government. The army forced ACR to leave its Marange diamond claim at gunpoint in 2006 but the courts have since ruled the ejection illegal.
Mpofu assisted by a senior police officer went to the central bank and produced a document which he claimed was from the Supreme Court Registrar setting aside the order to keep the diamonds there. ACR’s lawyer Jonathan Samkange charged that the police had basically ‘robbed the central bank.’ It’s thought the ZANU PF factions led by retired general Solomon Mujuru and Defence Minister Emerson Mnangagwa are fighting each other for control of the diamonds. Mpofu belongs to the Mujuru faction which is seen as enjoying the support of the army.
Last week it was reported that state security agents from the Central Intelligence Organisation (seen as loyal to the Mnangagwa faction) broke into Mpofu’s office at ZIMRE Centre in Harare trying to establish his role in shady deals involving diamonds. The CIO operatives who broke into the 7th floor office allegedly found important documents implicating the Minister, and also took his computer hard drive. Mpofu confirmed as much saying, ‘there were four break-ins by unknown persons into my office when I was on holiday.’