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DRC deals collapse

Vincent Kahiya

ZIMBABWE has abandoned its military-backed business operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid allegations of continued underhand dealings by army officers, it has been learnt.

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces, through its company Operation Sovereign Legitimacy (Osleg), went into a joint venture with a Congolese company during the height of its military engagement in the Great Lakes to form Cosleg. It was reported to be involved in the mining sector.

This week Cosleg director-general Retired Brigadier Sibusiso Moyo said his outfit was not involved in any commercial activity in the DRC.

“There is no mining (by Cosleg) taking place there,” said Moyo. “Since our military withdrawal we are not involved in any military or economic activity.

“The only activities taking place are those covered by the MOU (memorandum of understanding) like electricity, trade and investment.”

Asked about charges in United Nations reports that Zimbabwe had mining interests in the DRC, Moyo said: “That’s out. It’s just people who do not know what they are talking about. Zimbabwe was invited to assist the DRC government to defend its sovereignty, that is all.”

Mines and Minerals Development minister Edward Chindori Chininga yesterday said his ministry was not involved in any activity in the DRC.

“As a ministry we do not have any direct involvement either through ZMDC (Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation) or other institutions,” he said.

A UN Security Council resolution of January 24 noted with concern that the plundering of the natural resources in the DRC was one of the main elements fuelling the conflict in the region. The Security Council demanded that all states concerned should take immediate steps to end the illegal activities.

The last UN-commissioned report on the plunder of DRC resources last year named Cosleg as one of the companies involved in underhand dealings in the minerals-rich country. The report names as Cosleg frontmen ZDF commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe, Colonel Simpson Sikhulile Nyathi (director of defence policy) and Defence minister Sidney Sekeramayi.

Zimbabwe’s Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa was also mentioned in the report as the brains behind the Congo trade.

The Security Council resolution stressed the importance of following up the independent findings of the panel of investigators regarding the link between the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the DRC and the continuation of the conflict.

Zimbabwe, through a DRC company known as Socebo, was also linked to a logging concession the size of England. The government in 2000 also mooted an ambitious agricultural project involving Arda – the Agricultural Rural Development Authority. This has not taken off the ground.

A source in the DRC this week said the ventures had “failed dismally because Zimbabwe tried to do too many things without the requisite expertise”.

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