Calls for inquiry into diamond scandal

LEGAL experts yesterday said President Robert Mugabe should appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate the sensational diamond scandal in which ex-Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) boss Godwills Masimirembwa is accused of receiving a US$6 million bribe from a Ghanaian tycoon.

Faith Zaba

Lawyers interviewed by the Zimbabwe Independent said considering that Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and prosecuting authority Attorney-General Johannes Tomana, who met Ghanaian businessman William Ato Essien in Washington, together with former Mines minister Obert Mpofu and Masimirembwa, are indirectly involved in the case, it is advisable for Mugabe to set up an independent commission of inquiry.

Chihuri also attended one of the meetings in Bulawayo with Mpofu, Masimirembwa and Essien.

Furthermore, police have a clear conflict of interest as they have a 20% stake in the diamond mining company, Gye Nyame, which was initially a joint venture between the ZMDC and Ghana’s Bill Minerals before the shareholding structure changed.

The equity structure now comprises ZMDC which has a 50% stake, Zimbabwe Republic Police Trust (20%), Essien (24%), and Dantor (6%) — a company representing the interests of local shareholders Itai Munyeza and Blessmore Chanakira.

Lawyers said Mugabe can appoint investigators under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, which allows him to do so if the matter is for “public welfare”.

Law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe Professor Lovemore Madhuku said the Act allows Mugabe to appoint an independent body to investigate any officer of the public service, the conduct or management of any department of the public service or any public or local institution.

“Clearly once other state agencies have an interest or are interested parties, Mugabe has no option but to make sure there is an independent body to investigate the case,” Madhuku said.

“If the matter is being handled by people involved you can’t investigate a matter that you have an interest in because you can become very dangerous and try to close gaps to protect yourself or friends.”

Masimirembwa is accused of demanding and receiving a US$6 million bribe from Essien.

However, Masimirembwa claims the money received by Gye Nyame was a “commitment fee” which eventually went towards operations, not a bribe.

According to the Act, Mugabe has the power to appoint commissions of inquiry into matters of a public nature.

“The president may, when he considers it advisable, by proclamation, appoint a commission of inquiry consisting of one or more commissioners and may authorise the commissioner or commissioners or any quorum of them specified in the proclamation to inquire into the conduct of any officer in the public service, the conduct of any chief …, the conduct or management of any department of the public service or any public or local institution, or into any matter in which any inquiry would, in the opinion of the president, be for the public welfare,” reads the Act.

Law experts say the commission should be on same terms as that of the Justice Wilson Sandura commission which investigated the Willowvale Motor Industries scandal in 1988. “Willowgate” exposed how cabinet ministers and other politicians abused their positions to source cars from a state-owned vehicle assembly plant, Willowvale, and resold them for huge profits.

In 1997, Mugabe also appointed a commission of inquiry into the administration of the War Victims Compensation Fund. In the early 1980s, there were also the Dumbutshena and Chihambakwe commissions of inquiry into the Entumbane clashes between Zipra and Zanla and Gukurahundi, respectively.

“Mugabe should direct the commission on the diamond scandal to hold a public inquiry as he has done in the past if he is to deal with the issue properly and seriously,” a lawyer said.