3 May 2012

Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF MP 'Paid' Police for Unlawful Arrest of Australian Miner

An Australian businessman embroiled in a legal battle over the ownership of a gold mining claim in Kwekwe, has explained how a ZANU PF MP has been paying the police to "get rid" of him.

Lee John, Chairman of Kwekwe Consolidated Gold Mines (KGCM), recently spent more than two weeks behind bars after being arrested on what he calls 'trumped up' charges. His arrest formed part of his ongoing fight with a ZANU PF MP for Buhera North, William Mutomba, who has refused to vacate a gold mining claim leased to him by John's company.

More than six years ago Mutomba entered into a joint venture agreement with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to mine at the claim owned by KGCM. This was a short term lease that expired in February this year.

When the lease came to an end, the RBZ pulled out as agreed. But according to John, Mutomba has refused to leave and has ignored High Court eviction orders to vacate the property.

John told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that the MP has since been threatening him and his directors, trying to force them to hand over the full rights to the mine. John added that Mutomba has also been paying thousands of dollars to the police to have him arrested, "and they are still trying to have me arrested."

"I have been reliably informed that about US$80,000 has been paid to the police to arrest me, and I have been informed that I could be arrested once again so I am constantly worried," John said.

He explained that Mutomba's interests in the Kwekwe mine are purely selfish, dismissing other reports that the MP's interests are protected by Zimbabwe's indigenisation policies. ZANU PF has been spearheading the indigenisation drive, which requires foreign owned firms to handover 51% of their shareholding to local Zimbabweans.

"This has nothing to do with empowerment or indigenisation. This is straight up someone trying to steal 100% of the property," John said.

John's release on bail last month garnered international headlines after it was reported that his sixteen day incarceration was ended by the intervention of Robert Mugabe. John admitted that his business connections saw the matter being handled at a high political level. But he insisted his interests in Zimbabwe are apolitical and completely above board.

"There was NO corruption and NO racism in prison and I told all who would listen that I was happy to stay there until the corruption, outside in Zim, was sorted out," John said.

He added: "I am hoping that I will soon be exonerated because there is no basis for the charges against me."

He will be back in court on Friday.

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