JUSTICE minister Patrick Chinamasa (below) has been caught out on his statements over the SMM Holdings (Pvt) Ltd dispute in which he claims that â€œthere have been no discussions, absolutely, at any level whatsoeverâ€ between dispossessed business tycoon Mutumwa Mawere and government over the return of Mawereâ€™s seized companies.
Chinamasaâ€™s statements contained in adverts placed in newspapers this week have fuelled rising tensions within government over the handling of the SMM saga which has divided authorities. The issue could land Chinamasa in serious trouble as some of the parties in the quarrel now want parliament to investigate the issue amid allegations of looting and asset stripping.
The SMM conglomerate was seized by government from Mawere in 2004 on the pretext that the company was hugely indebted to the state and that the owner had been salting away funds to offshore accounts where it was stashed.
The issue had pronounced political undertones and the odour of a sour deal.
President Robert Mugabe, Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono and Mawere are inclined towards the return of SMM assets to their legitimate owners to close the matter, while Chinamasa, the companyâ€™s administrator Arafas Gwaradzimba and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa areÂ pulling in the opposite direction. This has created a conflict with running heated exchanges over the issue.Â
As reported in the Zimbabwe Independent last week Gono has written to Mugabe saying Mawere should be given back his companies which were seized unlawfully, while Chinamasa and Gwaradzimba are refusing to let the assets be returned to the South African-based business magnate.
Mugabe has not rejected Gonoâ€™s advice, but Chinamasa has rebuffed Gono.
After Gonoâ€™s May 14 letter to Mugabe was published in the press, saying Mawere must get back his assets, Chinamasa this week placed a newspaper advert insisting Gwaradzimba would remain in charge. Gwaradzimba has been accused of creaming off from SMM a 6% payment of gross proceeds of the sprawling empire and selling off its assets. There have also been allegations that he was using the money to send his children to schools in Australia and other far-flung places. Gwaradzimba says the allegations are â€œmaliciousâ€. Politicians are also accused of plundering SMM.
In his advert, Chinamasa claimed there have been no discussions at any level between government and Mawere on the SMM issue.
â€œThere are no discussions, and there have been no discussions, absolutely, and at any level whatsoever, between the government of Zimbabwe and Mr Mutumwa Dziva Mawere on the reconstruction of SMM,â€ he said.
However, information to hand shows there has been discussions between Mugabe and Mawere over the issue. Documents reveal that Chinamasa has been made aware of Mugabeâ€™s meetings with Mawere. There have also been meetings which involved Mugabe, Mnangagwa, Gono and Chinamasa himself to discuss the issue.
The Independentâ€™s informed sources said Mugabe met twice with Mawere on the sidelines of South African President Jacob Zumaâ€™s inauguration on May 9 in Pretoria. The meetings were organised by Zimbabweâ€™s ambassador to South Africa, Simon Khaya Moyo.
At those meetings the SMM issue was comprehensively discussed and Mawere ended up giving Mugabe documents on the matter that has been fought in the courts in South Africa, Britain and Zimbabwe. The case is still going on in local courts. Gono wrote an advisory to Mugabe after the president asked him to do so upon studying the documents provided by Mawere.
â€œContrary to Chinamasaâ€™s claims, the SMM reconstruction issue has been discussed at the highest level. President Mugabe has engaged Mawere directly on the issue and the minister knows or ought to know that,â€ a senior government official said. â€œApart from that, Chinamasa has had meetings with Mugabe and others on the issue. These are hard facts and therefore the ministerâ€™s statements in the advert are simply untrue and misleading.â€
A letter written by Gono to Chinamasa on June 9 on the SMM issue shows that Chinamasa was informed about Mugabeâ€™s meetings with Mawere.
â€œHonourable Minister, it is pertinent that it be appreciated for the record that the advisory issues were prompted by what I was made to understand was a meeting between His Excellency the President and Mr Mawere on the sidelines of the recent inauguration of President Zuma,â€ Gono said in his letter to Chinamasa. â€œThe meeting, I was made to understand, had been arranged through Zimbabweâ€™s ambassador to South Africa Cde SK Moyo.â€
Gono then tells Chinamasa that he only came to have contact with Mawere after Mugabeâ€™s meetings with him.
â€œI was asked by His Excellency to review the paperwork and representations as were presented by Mr Mawere,â€ the letter says. â€œI then proceeded to give what I strongly felt and still do feel was objective advice based on facts as had been presented.â€
Another letter also shows that there had been government discussions going on about the SMM issue.
A letter written by Gwaradzimba to Chinamasa on June 22 provides clear evidence of this. In his letter Gwaradzimba thanks Chinamasa for updating him on the outcome of a meeting on June 2 between Mugabe, Mnangagwa, Gono and himself â€œon issues pertaining to the reconstruction of SMMâ€.
Gwaradzimba also reveals that after Chinamasa had briefed him about what was said at the meeting, he also got another briefing from Mnangagwa whose role on the issue is coming under increasing scrutiny for its lack of explanation and clarity. While it is clear how other players got involved, Mnangagwaâ€™s role is unclear, prompting speculation of hidden political issues at stake in the dispute.
In his letter to Chinamasa, Gwaradzimba discloses that Mnangagwa told him that Mawere was claiming that as administrator he â€œhas taken and is still taking too much money out of SMM and sometimes inappropriatelyâ€. Mnangagwa also told Gwaradzimba that Mawere was saying some of the money was being used to send his children to overseas schools or universities in Australia and other places.
Documents show Chinamasa is aware of ongoing discussions on the SMM dispute despite his denials.