Masimirembwa bribery case: Mugabe in huge climbdown

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has made a dramatic climbdown on accusations of corruption he made against former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa.

By Wongai Zhangazha

Mugabe made the retreat in his annual televised interview before his birthday today shown yesterday on state television.

In an angry outburst at a luncheon after officially opening the First Session of the Eighth Parliament in September, Mugabe accused Masimirembwa of demanding a US$6 million bribe from Ghanaian businessman William Ato Essien who was a partner in Gye Nyame, a diamond mining company operating then in Chiadzwa.

The Ghanaian company which Essien claimed to own, Bill Minerals of Ghana, sought to invest in the Marange diamond field in a joint venture agreement with ZMDC and the Zimbabwe Republic Police.

However, Mugabe has made an embarrassing U-turn on national television after publicly accusing Masimirembwa of bribery.

In the interview with ZBC, Mugabe said: “Even nyaya yataiti yakatorwa naMasimirembwa (even allegations that Masimirembwa demanded money) … no … They had given the story that they had brought some (US$)5-6 million yakatorwa (was taken) … They were busy smuggling gold and selling it vachitora nearrangement ne (with) a South African group.

“That is why one of the two was arrested and the other one pleaded innocent. Then we said no because you were ignorant, he was not related to the one that was arrested, kutinyepera (they were lying to us), and the one who was arrested is a brother…”

“We discovered that they didn’t bring any and discovered that he does not own this Ecobank (apparently a reference to Essien’s First Capital Plus micro-finance company) in Ghana. Now come, you come, zvanzi mapurisa anondisunga, anokusingirei? (Why would the police want to arrest him? The lies he has told.”

In previous interviews with the Zimbabwe Independent last year, Essien said he had given Mugabe all documentation and evidence showing his US$5,9 million was taken by Masimirembwa.

According to reports, Essien and his aide brought US$5 million into the country via Kenya.

The other US$975 000 was allegedly paid to Masimirembwa to facilitate the release of Essien’s business partner Kingsley Ghansah (whom Mugabe says is Essien’s half-brother) who was arrested in Harare on illegal possession of 7kg of gold, which has now gone missing.

Despite assurances by Mugabe and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Essien believed he would be arrested if he came to make an official report on the matter.

Masimirembwa has since the allegations defended himself, saying Mugabe was misinformed about the US$6million diamond bribe scandal.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has a 20% stake in 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, ZRP (20%), Essien (24%), and Dantor (6%). Dantor represents the interests of local shareholders Itai Munyeza and Blessmore Chanakira.

Late last year government resolved to cancel Gye Nyame Resources joint venture agreement with Essien’s company after a series of external audits had exposed the Ghanaian investor’s “irretrievable failure and neglect of his obligations”.