MINES Minister Obert Mpofu (pictured) has been dramatically accused in front of President Robert Mugabe of soliciting bribes by Canadile Miners deputy chairman Lovemore Kurotwi who was last week arrested for alleged fraud as the fight over the controversial Marange diamonds intensifies.Documents to be used in court during the cases of Kurotwi and five Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) officials who were also arrested show that Mpofu was accused of soliciting bribes, leaving Mugabe stunned.
ZMDC officials arrested in a police swoop last week included suspended chief executive and general manager Dominic Mubaiwa, former board chairperson Gloria Mawarire, chairman of the finance and investment committee Ashton Ndlovu, board member Mark Tsomondo and suspended company secretary Tichaona Muhonde.
All the others were released on bail on Wednesday except Mubaiwa whom the magistrate said was the principal offender.
Minutes of a meeting between Mpofu and ZMDC board members held on September 20 at the Mines ministry’s board room say that the minister confirmed that Kurotwi had personally accused him of soliciting bribes in front of Mugabe. This, among other grounds including fraudulent misrepresentation of Core Mining and Minerals’ corporate profile and investment portfolio, was said to be the reason behind Kurotwi’s arrest.
Mpofu –– who signed off his letters to Mugabe as “your ever obedient son” –– had initially in the meeting with ZMDC board members started with a disclaimer that there were “rumours, insinuations and allegations” of corruption levelled against him and the board. He went on to narrate to ZMDC board members his encounter with Kurotwi in a meeting with Mugabe.
“The minister noted that in his meeting with His Excellency (Mugabe), Mr Kurotwi made a number of allegations against him and against the board members,” minutes of the September 20 meeting say.
“Mr Kurotwi alleged that the minister was being a stumbling block to the setting up of the Zimbabwe Diamond Technology Centre which he incorrectly alleges was part of the original joint venture agreement,” the minutes say. They also say “that board members of the (Zimbabwe) Mining Development Corporation were working in cahoots with the minister against Canadile Miners, that the minister is directing the board to work against him (Kurotwi), that there were attempts from the minister to solicit bribes from him and to divide Core (Mining) shareholders and turn them against Mr Kurotwi.”
There have been allegations that Mpofu was buying properties on a massive scale beyond his means. Reports have tried to link these said purchases to the Chiadzwa diamonds, although the minister has always denied wrongdoing.
Minutes say Kurotwi had accused Mpofu of asking for bribes and trying to divide Core Mining shareholders and turn them against him as the main investor.
The minutes say instead of confronting Mpofu over Kurotwi’s sensational allegations, Mugabe actually turned against the Canadile and Core Mining executive and questioned him over his company’s shareholders and how he had obtained 46% in Core Mining.
Mugabe asked Kurotwi about Core Mining’s corporate profile, its incorporation and whether it was true that the company was backed by Benny Steinmetz Group Resources Ltd (BSG Resources Ltd). Kurotwi approached Mpofu in March last year saying he was a representative of BSG Resources when he was not.
He then wrote a letter to Mpofu saying he represented Core Mining, purportedly a special purpose vehicle for BSGR which wanted to invest US$2 billion in Marange diamonds. Kurotwi and ZMDC officials were arrested over this issue over which they are accused of fraudulent misrepresentations and prejudicing ZMDC of US$10 million and trying to defraud the company of US$33 million.
Mugabe, according the minutes, also asked Kurotwi about his educational background and mining experience. The president also asked him how he expected Mpofu to sanction construction of the diamond centre without approval from his office. Mugabe also queried Kurotwi over the ownership of the land on which the diamond centre was to be built.
Further, Mugabe asked how much Core Mining had invested and why it was unable to bring the US$100 million it promised, as well as why the company had borrowed US$1,5 million from Agribank. Minutes say Kurotwi did not give Mugabe “credible answers”. After that meeting Mugabe ordered an internal ZMDC investigation which led to the arrest of Kurotwi and five ZMDC officials.