10 April 2014

Zimbabwe: Mushohwe Breathes Fire Over Graft Allegations

CHRISTOPHER Mushohwe, the Provincial Affairs Minister for Manicaland Province has spoken for the first time on allegations that diamond companies operating in Chiadzwa deposited money into his personal account, challenging those making the claims to provide evidence to that effect or risk being sued for slander.

Appearing before a Parliamentary portfolio committee last month, executives from companies operating in Chiadzwa made wide ranging allegations against officials in President Robert Mugabe's government one of which was that funds were deposited into Mushohwe's personal bank account.

Mushohwe is one of the senior ZANU-PF officials from Manicaland likely to appear before the Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment to explain their involvement in Chiadzwa. But in a recent interview with the Financial Gazette Mushohwe reacted angrily to the allegations, saying he doubted if what came out in the media reflected the correct record of what was said in the National Assembly.

"I don't want to think the person who is being alleged to have made the statement, really did. I don't think he is as naïve and daft as that. I know the person and I think he is cleverer than that. He knows the implications of lying under oath," said Mushohwe.

"Until I get it from the horse's mouth, I don't want to believe that anyone can make such an allegation. This is a serious allegation and I hope that the person understands the legal implications. The person has to prove it and all the newspapers that wrote that, I want them to go and prove it in court. They should prove some funds were deposited into my personal account and they must provide records to prove the transactions," he added.

The extraction of diamonds from the Chiadzwa diamond fields has been mired in controversy ever since the resource was discovered some years back. At the time of the discovery, villagers from Chiadzwa and other neighbouring communities poured into the fields, scrounging for the gems in order to make a killing. The invaders were later pushed out of the fields by the government to pave way for organised mining by companies operating in partnership with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.

As it is, government is now trying to improve transparency in the manner diamond revenues from Chiadzwa are being accounted for. Indications are that Treasury could have been prejudiced of millions of United States dollars through leakages and other malpractices. The mining companies cherry picked to operate in Chiadzwa have also crossed swords with government after reneging on their commitment to fund the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust to the tune of US$10 million each. Some of the diamond mining companies claimed before a Parliamentary portfolio committee that they were not aware of the existence of the trust as they were neither formally nor informally informed about the trust. Mushohwe said the companies were not telling the truth.

"When the President came to launch the trust (in July 2012), Minister (Saviour) Kasukuwere was in charge from briefing the President to organising the event. (Then Mines) Minister Obert Mpofu was not present. He had another engagement in Bulawayo. But the function was to do with the Ministry of Youth primarily. Now to answer the question, the companies had representatives there. I know for sure that Anjin Investment, Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources were represented but I'm not sure about Diamond Mining Company. And reading from the papers, Minister Kasukuwere indicated that Minister of Mines (then Mpofu) knew about the function. And there is no way the head of State can go to an event without one knowing what it's about," he said.

"So for people to say they didn't know, I think it's incorrect. The President cannot go to Marange when the mining companies did not know the purpose of his visit. Even those who were not represented they knew what the President was going to Marange for." -- Staff Reporter

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