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Zisco looters face grilling

Dumisani Muleya

THE parliamentary portfolio committee on Foreign Affairs, Industry and International Trade investigating Ziscosteel affairs is expected to summon top gov

ernment officials implicated in the scandal rocking the company.

Chairman of the portfolio committee Enock Porusingazi said yesterday his team might “invite” the officials named by the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate (NECI) report, which details looting of public funds at Zisco by individuals and companies, to “clarify” issues surrounding the government-owned steel-making firm.

“As a committee we are interested in the new developments on the Zisco affair and we might invite all those who have been mentioned with regard to the matter to clarify certain issues for us,” Porusingazi said.

“We need to follow these latest developments on the issue so that we get to the bottom of the matter. We have to make a comprehensive report to parliament and for us to do that there is need for the committee to do a thorough job to ascertain the truth about the Zisco situation.”

Vice-President Joice Mujuru, widely-tipped to succeed President Robert Mugabe, has been named in the NECI report. It also names co-Vice-President Joseph Msika and several ministers including Samuel Mumbengegwi, Olivia Muchena, Sithembiso Nyoni, Stan Mudenge, and Patrick Chinamasa, former Zanu PF MP Tirivanhu Mudariki and the late ruling party MP Gibson Munyoro as some of the people who could have benefited from Zisco. Muchena has disputed the NECI report, while her colleagues have been mum on the issue.

Former Zisco MD Dr Gabriel Masanga, the marketing executive Rodwell Makuni and a host of other senior managers been mentioned as the main culprits in the affair.

NECI says Zisco finances were raided through questionable contracts and a string of payments covering controversial purchases, services, airfares, hotel bookings, directors’ fees, management expenses and entertainment allowances.

Porusingazi said his committee would approach the Zisco saga with an “open mind” and give everyone the opportunity to explain themselves in a free and fair manner. He also said the committee needed to go “wider and deeper” into the Zisco scandal.

“We are not saying what has appeared in the media constitutes the whole truth, but we want to find out what has been going on at Zisco and make recommendations to parliament. Whatever our findings will be, we will put them in a report which will not be panel-beaten. We have a duty to inform parliament, which represents the interests of the people, on what has been happening at Zisco that is a government company.”

Government has of late been trying to suppress the NECI report to hide its sensitive disclosures. Ministers have been making statements and then later backtracking on them over the issue.

Industry and International Trade minister Obert Mpofu is now facing impeachment charges by parliament for perjury after he allegedly lied to Porusingazi’s committee under oath.

Mpofu initially told the committee senior officials, including “colleagues of mine in parliament” had looted Zisco but later backtracked, claiming that “I’m not aware of any particular minister or senior person or MP or anybody” involved in Zisco.

Anti-Corruption minister Paul Mangwana initially said those implicated in Zisco would be prosecuted.

“Very soon we will take action and police will make arrests of those who were involved in corruption at Ziscosteel irrespective of their political or social status,” Mangwana said. “It doesn’t matter if they are ministers or MPs. As long as they were involved they will be arrested. If we find that a crime was committed by whoever we will call in the police and provide evidence for prosecution.”

However, Mangwana later changed his tune, saying he could not talk about the NECI report because it was a state security document.

He then changed again saying some of his colleagues were under investigation. “I cannot say the names (of the culprits), but yes, I can only inform you a number of esteemed colleagues are under investigation,” he said.

State Security minister Didymus Mutasa said the NECI report was non-existent and challenged Mpofu to name those involved if he knew them. Msika, named in the NECI report, said there was no looting at Zisco.

No proper official government comment has been made on the issue, except remarks by an anonymous columnist believed to be Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba in the government-run Herald which claimed no politicians were implicated in the Zisco scandal.

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