20 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Witnesses Claim Mpofu Put Them Under Pressure

TWO State witnesses yesterday told the High Court that Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu put the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation under pressure to conclude the mining partnership deals with two companies that had been already identified and approved.

Testifying in the case in which Core Mining director Lovemore Kurotwi and former ZMDC chief executive Dominic Mubaiwa are accused of fraud involving US$2 billion, ZMDC former board chairperson Ms Gloria Mawarire and a board member Mr Tichaona Muhonde said Minister Mpofu simply gave them the names of two companies - Grandwell Holdings and BSGR - as already identified and approved investors to partner Government in mining diamonds.

The two told the court that their task was not to critique the already approved companies but to finalise the agreements within a short period.

It was Mr Muhonde's evidence that there was communication from the ministry that advised them that BSGR was to be represented by Core Mining in all transactions and that it had to maintain some anonymity throughout the deal.

Ms Mawarire said there was too much pressure from Minister Mpofu.

"The Minister of Mines was the one who was putting pressure on the board to put investors on board. The board operated under pressure and two companies had already been identified and approved when we got into office. The desire by the minister was for the agreements to be concluded," she said.

Several directors including Ms Mawarire and Mr Muhonde were once arrested for the same offence but later had their charges withdrawn before plea.

Ms Mawarire and Mr Muhonde, who are both lawyers, indicated to the court that they could not see any offence in the manner in which Mr Mubaiwa signed the agreements on behalf of ZMDC.

Ms Mawarire said she was actually surprised to learn of the arrests.

"I do not know of the criminal role Mr Mubaiwa played. I am just as puzzled as I was when I was also arrested," she said.

Mr Muhonde said the board's role was simply to implement the already approved project.

"On our first meeting, we were told that two companies--Grandwell Holdings and BSGR had already been identified and approved. It was indicated to us that BSGR will be investing through a special purpose vehicle called Core Mining.

"Our role as the board was to implement the project that had already been approved," said Mr Muhonde.

Chief Law Officer Chris Munagadura and Mr Public Mpofu appeared for the State while Ms Beatrice Mtetwa and Advocate Lewis Uriri defended Mubaiwa and Kurotwi.

The trial continues on tomorrow at the High Court.

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