Security forces tighten mining sector grip

In Marange, the army, police, intelligence and prisons services have direct mining claims. Retired and also serving security personnel sit on the boards of various mining companies.

Security forces have mainly entered into partnerships with Chinese and Russian companies which bring in capital as well as expertise.

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), which brings together the army and the air force, is involved in a partnership with Chinese firm, Anjin, in mining diamonds in Marange while the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) has embarked on a platinum mining project in Ngezi with another Chinese company, Sinodrill.

The ZDF is also heavily involved in joint ventures in the Chegutu-Selous area as well as in diamond mining and explorations of new gold deposits in Matabeleland North and South.

Sources revealed that the defence forces were also working with other Chinese and Russian companies to prospect for and mine other minerals right across the country.

ZDF spokesperson, Colonel Overson Mugwisi, said he was unaware of any mining deals involving the defence forces, but asked for questions to be submitted in writing so that he could confirm with his superiors.

He, however, failed to respond to the Zimbabwe Independent’s  enquiries and was reported to be out of his office yesterday.

Sources, however, maintained that the joint ventures with the Chinese and Russians were aimed at ensuring that the defence forces raise enough capital to acquire new equipment and pay off their debts as they were not getting enough funding from Treasury.

But their involvement has raised fears this could create opportunities for the diversion of funds and compromise the work of the defence forces, whose main duty is to ensure peace as well as to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.

According to a February 2012 Global Witness report titled Diamonds: A Good Deal for Zimbabwe, the presence of several serving security personnel on the boards of companies mining diamonds in Chiadzwa, presented opportunities for the diversion and abuse of funds.

Anjin board members include Martin Rushwaya, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence, as well as Zimbabwe Republic Police commissioners, Oliver Chibage and Nonkosi Ncube.

The principal officer and company secretary of Anjin, Charles Tarumbwa, and non-executive board members, Morris Masunungure and Romeo Daniel Mutsvunguma, all have links with the military.

Another company mining diamonds in Chiadzwa is Mbada, whose chairperson is retired Air Vice-Marshal Robert Mhlanga. Mbada and its associated companies are believed to have obscure legal structures which Global Witness believes could be used to divert funds.

“Anjin’s Zimbabwean board members include senior serving and retired military and police officers, and the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence,” says the Global Witness report.

“Control by the military and police over a major diamond mining company creates opportunities for off-budget funding of the security sector. The presence of Mbada, Transfrontier and associated companies in countries with zero rates of corporate tax such as Mauritius, Hong Kong, British Virgin Islands and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, raises the questions of where these companies pay their taxes and whether these arrangements are a good deal for Zimbabwe.”

“Complex legal structures and secrecy jurisdictions can be used to hide who benefits from natural resources. Such secrecy is inappropriate for national assets and has the potential to conceal corruption, tax avoidance or off-budget government spending,” the report said.

Constitutional law expert, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, said it was not normal for the military to be involved in activities such as mining, and said deals involving them were meant to facilitate corruption.

“The involvement of the army is an act of corruption,” said Madhuku. “It is meant to buy their loyalty, to ensure that they remain loyal, but this is not normal. If members of the army are to go into business, they should do so in their private capacities like everyone else, instead of having the whole institution going into business,” Madhuku said.

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