Mines and Mining Development minister, Walter Chidhakwa risks being corrupted if he deals individually with graft because there are "too many powerful and untouchable corrupt people" in the mining sector, a local lobby group has warned.
In a report that assesses Chidhakwa's first 100 days in office, the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) said the minister needed to liaise with other law enforcement agencies to avoid being conscripted into corrupt activities.
On assuming office, Chidhakwa vowed to bring sanity by dealing with corruption and ensuring transparency and accountability in the mining sector.
"However, given that there are too many powerful and untouchable individuals involved in corrupt deals in Zimbabwe's extractive sector, the minister himself risks being corrupted soon if he wants to individually deal with corruption in the sector," said the report.
It said the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) must be allowed to carry out investigations without hindrances if graft was to be eradicated in the sector.
Mining operations and revenue generated from sale of diamond mined in Marange were shrouded in secrecy during Obert Mpofu's tenure as minister of Mines and Mining Development.
The centre said a significant number of the mining contracts were negotiated secretly resulting in bad deals that prejudiced both government and communities.
Apart from allegations of grand corruption, the mining sector was also mired in allegations of nepotism and gross mismanagement.
The then Finance minister, Tendai Biti complained of the lack of transparency and that there was very little revenue that was being remitted to Treasury by the mining companies.
In his efforts to deal with corruption, Chidhakwa -- whom President Robert Mugabe described as an "honest, hardworking young man" at his swearing ceremony -- recently dissolved the boards of Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), Mineral Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) and Marange Resources.
Mugabe has publicly attacked former ZMDC board chairman, Goodwills Masimirembwa accusing him of receiving a US$6 million bribe from a Ghanaian investor.
A report released by the Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Mining Development that was headed by the late Edward Chindori-Chininga noted that Mpofu violated the ZMDC Act by appointing board members to the parastatals' subsidiaries.
The appointments saw a number of individuals with conflicted interests being appointed as board members while they owned their own diamond-trading companies.
"Thus the ministers' decision to dissolve the boards of the three state institutions shows he is cognisant of the fact that corruption has been institutionalised in these firms and drastic measures should be taken to address the scourge," said the centre.
During a visit to Marange diamond fields late last year, Chidhakwa castigated companies for poor remittances to Treasury and lack of development in the area they operate in for the benefit of the local community.
But CRNG was not impressed that Chidhakwa failed to name the people who, in the first eight weeks of his being office, offered him a bribe which he turned down. It said the fact that people were confident enough to approach the minister with bribes gave credence to allegation against the then Mpofu's mines ministry.
"However, merely claiming to have turned down the bribe is not enough, the minister must have named and shamed the individual or company that offered a bribe," said the organisation. "That would have sent the message loud and clear that government was serious in fighting corruption. Hiding the name is tantamount to covering up corruption."
The centre however praised Chidhakwa for trying to promote value addition (beneficiation), which is one of the four clusters of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset).
"Thus Minister Chidhakwa has made good promises which are yet to be fulfilled," said CNRG. "Time is still on his side given that he has only been in office for a little more than 100 days."
The centre urged the minister to carry out an audit of all mining activities in the country to ensure that no extractive industry is evading tax and other obligations to government, local authorities and communities.
"Those operating secretly or illegally should be severely punished or blacklisted," it recommended.
Chidhakwa could not be reached for comment last week as he was not answering his mobile phone.