INDUSTRY and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube has dismissed allegations that he received bribes from the Essar Group to facilitate the Indian company’s takeover of Ziscosteel as malicious and cheap propaganda.
Zanu PF and MDC-T MPs brewed a shocker in parliament this week, alleging Ncube received substantial inducements from Essar to influence its US$750 million takeover of the former giant steel maker.
Industry and Commerce parliamentary portfolio committee chairperson and Buhera North MP, William Mutomba (Zanu PF) tabled the report in parliament on Tuesday alleging corruption marred the Essar deal.
Ncube said the deal was done with utmost transparency and integrity following a public tender process which was overseen by a technical team that later made recommendations to the Industry and Commerce ministry.
Ncube and his team then assessed the recommendations before forwarding them to President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
He said Essar was awarded the tender on the basis of it agreeing to take over the Ziscosteel debt and inheriting its workforce. It was also the only company with a strong balance sheet compared to other bidding entities, he added.
Mugabe accepted the Essar bid after it was discussed in cabinet five times and also scrutinised by the Attorney-General’s office.
Ncube said the parliamentary committee was also furnished with documents and explanations proving everything was done above board.
“It’s extremely unfortunate and malicious for the committee to make such defamatory remarks,” said Ncube. “We are aware that there are elements who want to derail the deal at all costs because they preferred other companies instead of Essar.”
The legislators further alleged that money realised from the sale of ore from Bimco was deposited into the Industry and Commerce ministry account instead of the Ziscosteel account, but Ncube scoffed at the allegations, saying they were simply false.