FORMER Indigenisation minister Savior Kasukuwere left a messy trail of undocumented agreements with mining companies which is proving to be problematic for his successor Francis Nhema.
Nhema was yesterday grilled by parliament’s Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment portfolio committee over 2013 agreements between his ministry and Marange diamond miners on the formation and operationalisation of the Marange Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust in the diamond rich area.
Prior to the meeting, diamond miners told the parliamentary committee they were required to pay US$1,5 million each into a community share trust with a view to jointly contribute US$10 million, but Nhema insists his predecessor had indicated each miner was required to pay US$10 million.
Save for minutes of the meeting between Kasukuwere and the Marange miners, there is no documented record of government’s directive or the companies’ intent to comply as it was a “gentleman’s agreement”, Nhema said.
“Do we have written instructions for the companies to pay US$10 million? The answer is no!” Nhema said, bringing into sharp focus issues of accountability and transparency on the controversial indigenisation exercise beset by corruption allegations. the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission last year made abortive attempts to investigate Kasukuwere over graft allegations.
“The confusion is on interpretation of whether the companies contribute US$1,5 million or pay US$10 million each and the interpretation from my predecessor was they must pay US$10 million each,” Nhema said.
He said there is need for honour and integrity in the country rather than depending on verbal agreements.
However, President Robert Mugabe was presented with dummy cheques during the launch of the community trusts which were not backed by real cash.
In Masvingo, political clashes over indigenisation have resulted in the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB) failing to rein in South African Tongaat Hullet (Tongaat)’s local operation Hippo Valley Estates (Hippo) and Bikita Minerals.
Tongaat and Bikita Minerals were in February this year singled out for not complying with the indigenisation policy by parliament’s Portfolio Committee amid concern the two companies had political protection from people in high office.
NIEEB CEO Wilson Gwatiringa said the board had referred the matter to the President’s Office after a series of fruitless attempts to finalise the issue.
“We tried to engage them, which we did when we found out these companies were taking time to do what they are supposed to do. We then reported the issue so that it can be tackled at a higher level to try and make sure these companies play ball and comply with the laws of the country,” he said.
Tongaat turned down government’s directive to launch a community share ownership trust in Masvingo, saying it could not be part of an initiative to which it is opposed. The company was said to have refused to fund the launch celebrations.