19 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Kurotwi's Lawyers Try to Block Inspection in Loco Set for SA

THE Attorney General's Office got South Africa's approval to conduct an inspection in loco in the case in which the State was allegedly swindled US$2 million but lawyers representing Core Mining director Lovemore Kurotwi are fighting to block the foreign trip.

Kurotwi and former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chief executive Dominic Mubaiwa are being accused of misrepresenting to the Government that Core Mining was a special purpose vehicle for a renowned mining giant BSGR, prompting the State to sign a joint venture agreement with an undeserving company.

Government later discovered that Core Mining had nothing to do with BSGR and that it did not have the required money to finance the operations of a joint venture firm, Canadile Miners.

As a result of the said misrepresentation, Government claims it suffered business loss to the tune of US$2 million.

In the middle of the trial, Chief Law Officer Chris Mutangadura of the AG's Office applied for an inspection-in-loco to be conducted at Pikwane Diamonds in South Africa, where the ZMDC committee members were received during a due diligence exercise in 2009.

Mr Mutangadura told the High Court yesterday that South Africa, through its Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development approved the trip but Ms Beatrice Mtetwa has written to the South African Government challenging the move.

Mr Mutangadura said Kurotwi and Ms Mtetwa were busy throwing spanners along the way and that any delays in organising the foreign trip should be attributed to the defence team.

"The minister responsible for justice and costitutional development in South Africa has approved the inspection in loco. On January 11, 2013, I received another letter from South Africa calling upon us (prosecution) to respond to Mr Kurotwi's objection.

"The objections were raised through his laywers. Despite the minister's approval, the first accused (Kurotwi) is exercising his rights to block the inspection in loco. Any delay cannot be attributed to the prosecution," said Mr Mutangadura.

In a letter to the South African Government dated January 11, 2013, Ms Mtetwa said if the minister failed to assist her client, she had instructions to file an application to review the ministerial decision.

"We are of the firm view that the minister was obliged to hear and consider our representations before he could approve the request and it is our respectful view that this can still be done.

"However, should the minister and all the various departments who have been requested to render assistance in this matter proceed without affording our client and all interested parties a hearing, please be advised that we have instructions to take the minister's decision for review before the courts of South Africa.

Ms Mtetwa yesterday told the High Court that the Government of Zimbabwe should not be allowed to breach the rights of Kurotwi and other Core Mining directors who are South African citizens.

She said Zimbabwe unlawfully terminated the joint venture between Core Mining and Marange Resources and quickly deported some Core Mining directors to South Africa without following the due process of the law.

Core Mining, being a South African registered company, had its property compulsorily seized and Marange continued using the mining equipment after the deportation.

The other Core Mining directors, according to Ms Mtetwa, were denied any right to be heard or to contest the decision. Ms Mtetwa also stated that the Core Mining directors had their dividends spilling into millions of United States dollars withheld and they cannot come to Zimbabwe to assert their rights.

Ms Mtetwa said the South African court should consider all the alleged breaches of the Core Mining directors' rights before the Zimbabwean High Court was allowed to sit as a court in South Africa.

The trial continued yesterday with former ZMDC board chairperson Ms Gloria Mawarire testifying.

Before Ms Mawarire testified, Mr Mutangadura told the court that she was an accomplice witness and that her evidence should be treated with caution.

Mr Mutangadura told the court that Ms Mawarire was once an accused person in the same matter but charges against her were withdrawn to enable her to testify as a State witness.

Ms Mawarire told the High Court that when she was appointed chairperson together with other board members, Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu told them that mining partners had already been identified and it had already been agreed.

The board members, according to Ms Mawarire, were given the two names of investors - BSGR and Reclamation Group -- as agreed potential investors.

She told the court that she was part of the group that travelled to South Africa. The trial continues today with the defence lawyers --Ms Mtetwa and Advocate Lewis Uriri - cross-examining Ms Mawarire.

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