THE controversial joint venture between the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), the Zimbabwe Republic Police Trust, Ghanaian businessman William Ato Essien and local company Dantor to exploit diamonds in Chiadzwa has raised a stink over the involvement of the security sector in business.
The diamond mining joint venture was plunged into controversy following President Robert Mugabe’s damning allegations that former ZMDC chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa received a US$6 million bribe from the Ghanaian firm and later threatened the company’s officials with arrest should they set foot in Zimbabwe.
After Mugabe’s passionate public declaration of zero tolerance to corruption, the less sceptical among Zimbabweans expect the relevant authorities to thoroughly investigate the accusations as well as many other corruption cases allegedly involving high-ranking politicians and their connections, which have been in the public domain for some time.
But there is a serious challenge regarding the Masimirembwa case, which underlines the problem of allowing the security sector to engage in business.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), which would normally play a pivotal role in investigating such a matter, has a 20% stake in Gye Nyame, the company formed as a result of the joint venture, and is therefore an interested party which would not be trusted to undertake impartial investigations.
From Mugabe’s narration of the case, the head of the country’s police force, Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri has been aware of the allegations for some time and communicated with Essien, assuring him he would not be arrested if he enters the country.
Chihuri’s assurance followed allegations that Masimirembwa had persistently warned Essien he would be arrested if he came to Zimbabwe.
Chihuri and former Mines minister Obert Mpofu were part of the team which met Essien in Bulawayo last year to assure him of his safety, while Masimirembwa allegedly failed to explain his threats to the Ghanaian businessman at the same meeting, according to an irate Mugabe.
Mpofu also met Essien in the United States in the presence of Attorney-General Johannes Tomana, who is the prosecuting authority.
It has also emerged that senior police officers, among them Commissioner Charles Mufandaidza and Senior Assistant Commissioners Mekia Tanyanyiwa and Grace Nomsa Ndebele, are directors of Gye Nyame.
Lawyers who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent including University of Zimbabwe law lecturer Lovemore Madhuku last week said an independent commission should be established to look into the matter, given the apparent conflict of interest of state authorities involved.
Transparency International Zimbabwe chairperson Loughty Dube said the case had proved the oft-alleged opacity in the country’s mining sector, while also exposing the dangers of having the security sector venturing into business.
“It’s the first time that we know for sure police are involved in diamond mining. It’s the first time that we know that the police are directors in a diamond mining company. This is a serious anomaly. Their business is not to be in business, but to maintain law and order,” said Dube.
“We expect the police to be transparent in their dealings, but the current deal compromises their integrity. We expect the police to investigate impartially, but how can they carry out their mandate if they are heavily involved?
“Issues of transparency fly out of the window when the one who is expected to investigate is an active player.”
Dube said it was not advisable for the security sector to get involved in business as it often compromises transparency.
“It’s not only the police, even the army, prisons and other security organs of state should not be allowed to venture into business. Their job is to maintain law and order and protect the country. They have no business in business.”
Besides transparency issues, some analysts believe involving the security sector in business often results in them accumulating ill-gotten wealth, which in turn attracts them to partisan politics to preserve their wealth.
Zimbabwe’s generals are among the richest military personnel in the region amid allegations some accumulated part of their wealth from diamond proceeds. In addition, they have large farms and safari operations while most benefited immensely from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s agricultural mechanisation programme which saw them acquiring state-of-the-art farming implements virtually for free.
Last year, the Independent ran a report by UK-based non-governmental organisation Global Witness, Financing a Parallel Government?, which shed light on activities then unfolding at Marange diamond fields, detailing who was involved and the intricate networks comprising the Chinese and Zimbabwe’s security forces, the army, police and intelligence services. It also alleged the country’s spy agency, the CIO, was receiving off-budget funding.
Over the years, there has been an outcry from ordinary Zimbabweans, members of civil society, international human rights groups and opposition political parties regarding the shadowy nature of Zimbabwe’s diamond mining sector, allegedly dominated by the security sector.
Two of the most prominent diamond companies, Mbada Diamonds and Anjin Investments, are controlled by security forces, tarnishing the image of the sector in the wake of allegations that most of the diamond mining revenue is being diverted and not finding its way into Treasury.
Mbada is chaired by retired Air Vice-Marshal Robert Mhlanga.
Anjin’s company secretary is Charles Tarumbwa, a serving brigadier-general, while board members include police commissioners Oliver Chibage and Nonkosi Ncube.
The army is also a shareholder in China Africa Sunlight Energy, a company involved in a US$2,1 billion project to exploit methane gas and coal deposits in the Gwayi and Lupane areas of Matabeleland North, among other business interests.
Security sector analyst and executive director of the African Public Policy and Research Institute, Dr Martin Rupiya, a retired senior army officer, said there was nothing wrong with the security sector venturing into business, but said it should act in the national interest.
“The involvement of the military in business is a phenomenon found in a number of countries: (Former) United States Vice-President Dick Cheney and other former generals are deeply involved in the military industrial complex of the US security establishment, including supplying weaponry and even water to troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Rupiya said.
“Other countries similar to Zimbabwe — China, Turkey, Algeria and Egypt — have their militaries in all sectors, from baking bread, making cooking oil as well as manufacturing and repair facilities.
“Of course, the role of national forces upholding national interests underlies the processes. Where this is absent, serious questions arise of integrity and purpose.”
Rupiya said it is important for the country to put in place constitutional guarantees that ensure military businesses are conducted for sovereign-national interests and curbing the usual default of personal and corrupt benefits.
In Zimbabwe, however, the security sector has often been accused of partisanship and protecting its interests and that of Zanu PF elites, hence suspicions over the purpose of getting into business.
Securocrats have publicly backed Zanu PF in contravention of the constitution, and is credited with the brutal presidential run-off campaign of June 2008 that saved Mugabe’s political career.
Over the years, bigwigs fingered in corruption have escaped scot-free with only less influential suspects being targeted.
Rupiya warned that as long as the state and officials appear unwilling or unable to rein in corrupt officials, people’s suspicions would remain.