The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development last week suspended two of its top directors on allegations they tried to solicit bribes from South African potential investors, Lephalele Mining.
The ministry’s chief director Mercy Manyuchi, together with the director of the Zimbabwe Geological Survey Forbes Mugumbate, had been fingered in the scam and suspended, but Manyuchi was later exonerated by the CIO, which carried out the investigation, according to a document seen by this newspaper.
They were accused of soliciting bribes from the South African investors led by Lephalele chairperson Cliff Motsepe and chief operating officer Mashile Mokono in a meeting held on March 29, according to the document signed by a top CIO official.
Manyuchi was cleared last Friday after a letter from the CIO indicated her involvement was subject to an investigative error stemming from a mix-up of names and use of an old telephone directory.
Public service commission chair Vincent Hungwe wrote to Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga on May 11, 2021 lifting the suspension against Manyuchi.
The suspected culprits now stand accused of economic sabotage of the “Zimbabwe is open for business mantra”.
In a letter seen by the Zimbabwe Independent, the CIO then clarified the list of suspects.
“On 21 April 2021, our staff telephoned the MMMD [Ministry of Mines and Mining Development] reception to obtain the name of the director for research, value-addition and beneficiation and they were erroneously informed that it was Dr Mercy Manyuchi. This also happened to tally with the name in the Zimbabwe Government confidential telephone list (the ‘Green Book’). We have since found that she was not present in the meeting and is in fact now the chief director mining development,” read part of the letter which was addressed to Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando and copied to ministry’s permanent secretary, Onesimo Moyo.
The meeting in question, according to the letter was attended by the director of non-energy minerals Nelson Munyanduri, who chaired it and Tichaona Makuza, who is the director of research, value-addition and beneficiation. The Public Service Commission will now drag Makuza and Mugumbate for a disciplinary hearing.
The mining sector and law enforcement agents have specifically come under spotlight, amid allegations of unprocedural issuance of permits and cases of huge amounts of gold being smuggled through ports, including the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
Early this week Tashinga Nyasha Masinire (33), was found in possession of 23 pieces of gold worth R11m, which was suspected to have been smuggled through the country’s biggest airport.
Last year Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya was arrested at the same port with 6kg of gold worth US$366 destined for Dubai.
In an exclusive interview with Zimbabwe Independent last week, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) chairperson Justice Loyce Matanda-Moyo singled out the Mines ministry as one of the corruption hotspots, mainly due to the handling of mining claims and grants by senior officials.
She said this had been exposed by an investigative report produced by experts at Zacc.
Information at hand suggests the Lephalele directors who were present at the meeting raised alarm with authorities, leading to investigations under CIO director-general Isaac Moyo.
Attempts to get further information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the prospective investors were fruitless at the time of going to print.
Chitando had not responded to questions since last week.
The CIO director-general could also not be reached to give an update on the matter, as his mobile phone went unanswered.
Prior to his appointment to head the President’s department in 2017, Moyo was Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to neighboring South Africa where the investors came from.
Officials at Zacc said they were unaware of such reports, requesting further information. They were unable to give an official comment at the time of going to print, but they indicated the Ministry of Mines was considered, at the commission, to be among the corruption hotspots.
Corruption has been cited as among the country’s major stumbling blocks to attracting investment.