THE United Nations Panel of Experts on the illegal exploitation of the natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is set to visit Zimbabwe again this year a
fter the Security Council on Wednesday unanimously renewed its mandate to gather more information.
The Security Council resolution also demanded that all states named in various probes should take immediate steps to end such illegal exploitation.
Zimbabwe was singled out by the panel of experts last year as one of the countries involved in the plunder of natural resources in the DRC through a network of companies run by the military.
The Zimbabwe Defence For-ces, 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 a mining concern, Cosleg.
Cosleg director-general Retired Brigadier Sibusiso Moyo in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent last month 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.”
Government officials including Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa, believed to be a key figure in Zimbabwe’s operations in the DRC, have denied any wrong-doing. The network of government officials include senior army personnel and retired officers.
The UN panel headed by Mahmoud Kassem is expected in its new mandate to hold “dialogue with parties named in its last report, particularly with governments concerned”. It is also expected to get “a clearer picture of activities related to the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to update its findings during the remainder of its mandate period”.
The 15-0 vote in the Security Council on Wednesday gives the panel until October 31 to complete its mandate, at the end of which it will submit a final report.
The resolution noted “with great concern” that plundering continued, especially in the eastern part of the DRC, and stressed that “appropriate action should be taken with regard to those responsible for such activities”.
The Council “reiterates its demand that all states concerned take immediate steps to end the illegal exploitation of nature”, the resolution added.
In a report to the Council last year Kassem said it had identified three “elite networks” that had carved out separate spheres of economic control in the country over the past four years. Zimbabwe’s Cosleg was mentioned as at the heart of one of the networks.
“The elite networks’ grip on the DRC’s economy extends far beyond precious natural resources to encompass territory, fiscal revenues and trade in general,” he noted.
Kassem said the networks’ activities involved highly organised and documented systems of embezzlement, tax fraud, extortion, kickbacks, false invoicing, asset-stripping of State companies and secret profit-sharing agreements. These activities were orchestrated in a manner that closely resembled criminal operations, he said.