Infighting rocks Zimplats CST

DEVELOPMENT projects for the Mhondoro-Ngezi-Chegutu-Zvimba community share ownership trust (CST) are in limbo due to infighting among the 12 chiefs and other trustees of the three districts covered by the trust, businessdigest can reveal.

Taurai Mangudhla

Members of the CST, the empowerment vehicle which was established as part of Zimbabwe Platinum Mine’s (Zimplats) compliance with Indigenisation laws, told Youth Development and Indigenisation and Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere at a recent meeting in Chegutu confusion had slowed progress due to lack of consensus that resulted in late disbursement of funds.

Kasukuwere was reportedly infuriated by the irregularities, which he immediately described as counter-productive and called for urgent solutions.

“This CST was the first one to be formed in 2011 and yet you are lagging behind. Are you afraid of making decisions and producing results?” Kasukuwere asked the community leaders who were gathered at a local hotel in Chegutu.

The meeting also sought Kasukuwere’s intervention on the alleged slow pace at which the US$10 million pledged by Zimplats to operationalise the scheme were being disbursed.

The minister proposed the funds should be moved from the trust into district accounts to improve accessibility, adding fund managers should be appointed to all CSTs to ensure maximum value would be unlocked from investing the funds.

However, information gathered by businessdigest indicates Zimplats officials were opposed to putting the funds in district accounts as this would become difficult to ensure accountability.

The infighting is also believed to be a key variable informing Zimplats’ attitude towards the proposed decentralisation of funds.

Furthermore, stakeholders fear the funds could be channeled towards electoral campaigns by politicians ahead of decisive elections expected sooner or later this year.

ZImplats corporate affairs executive Busi Chindove said Zimplats kept an audit trail of the utilisation of the funds but played no role in influencing the projects in which the communities wished to invest.
“The community has its needs, depending on its plans and that is what we follow as Zimplats,” Chindove said.

According to the agreement, the US$10 million was supposed to be disbursed over a three-year period, which government argues lapses in October this year, leaving Zimplats with six months to avail the balance. Chindove, however, said the shrinking time window was of no concern to her company.

She told CST members and government officials Zimplats had to date disbursed US$4,1 million, while a further US$1,6 million was expected to be released this week.

The Zimplats executive said only US$800 000 had been utilised out of the US$4,1 million disbursed, while US$2,5 million was sitting in investments at FBC.

Last month, Kasukuwere invited fund managers to seize the opportunities that were being presented by the empowerment funds from mining companies, which were now in excess of US$1 billion.

The Indigenisation minister told fund managers the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Fund (NIEEF) would soon tender for fund managers, auditors and legal advisors for CSTs.

Six CSTs have been successfully formed to date, with more than US$110 million having been either paid out or pledged to CSTs by mining companies.

The US$110 million is meant to operationalise the various CSTs, which are later expected to be self-sustaining from dividends.

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