SW Radio Africa (London)

20 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Army Joins Forces With China for U.S. $2 Billion Gas and Coal Project

Energy and Power Development Minister Elton Mangoma was sidelined from the US$2 billion coal and methane gas project that was commissioned on Wednesday.

The project, which falls under his ministry's jurisdiction, was commissioned by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the defence minister.

Mangoma told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that everything to do with the gas project was done behind his back. The minister was even excluded from the ground breaking ceremony in Gwayi.

'I wasn't even invited to the ceremony and I don't even know that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces are involved in the project,' Mangoma said.

The deal is a joint project between Sunlight Energy of China and Old Stones Investment, an arm of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. ZDF commander General Constantine Chiwenga was present at the commissioning.

'I have been getting phone calls from people asking why I wasn't at the ceremony. The honest truth is I was never invited and the whole thing was done behind my back,' the minister added.

Operations at the project are set to start next year and according to the state media will create 4,000 jobs. Two power stations will be built and powered by coal mined in the area.

Reports say the investment will also create a chemical company which will utilize the methane gas to manufacture fertilizer and coal tar for road construction.

However it is the military's involvement and the lack of transparency that is raising eyebrows. Economic analyst Bekithemba Mhlanga said concern will be raised over the secretiveness of the deal that is meant to benefit the country.

'We know of the plunder in Marange and the question to be asked is will the gas project be transparent to the extent that the public would be informed of the exact resources generated from the operations,' queried Mhlanga.

According to a recent report $2 Billion worth of gems have so far been stolen from the Marange diamonds fields by President Robert Mugabe's ruling elite.

Partnership Africa Canada, a group campaigning against 'blood diamonds', claims revenue that could have revived the country's ailing economy has been channelled into a 'parallel government' of police and military officers and government officials loyal to Mugabe,

The Marange fields were discovered in 2006 and are one of the world's biggest diamond deposits. But funds from diamond sales have not reached the state treasury and there is evidence that millions have gone to Mugabe's inner circle.

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