BY SHAME MAKOSHORI
THE names of Zimbabwe’s late strongman Robert Mugabe and his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa have been dragged into a blazing dispute over Ran Gold Mine, a Mashonaland Central domiciled asset where domestic investors have fought battles to control the business for a decade, businessDigest can reveal.
Fighting reached a tipping point last week when G&P Industries and Ran Mines Private Limited, one of the warring parties, said it was pressing ahead to extract its first bullion at the mine in 22 years, while rivals at Blackgate Investments warned that sinking shafts at the operation was illegal until government makes a determination over ownership.
However, documents seen by businessDigest indicated that Blackgate holds permits demonstrating ownership to the goldfields, which were issued by the government.
In a 76-page letter submitted to Mnangagwa in December, Blackgate claimed that G&P Industries had warned them to tread carefully as the asset belonged to the feared late statesman, Mugabe, and his family.
The letter claimed that after Mugabe unceremoniously left power in 2017, G&P, which is fronted by mining executive Jack Murehwa, somersaulted and claimed that Mnangagwa had taken over the 122-year-old asset, which collapsed in 1999 before attracting armies of artisanal miners.
Murehwa pleaded with businessDigest not to “escalate the issue in the press”, but added that he was too “professional” to thrive on name dropping.
“Surely, we are a lot more professional than that,” Murehwa said.
“When we talk business, we talk professional things. What you are saying is for you and your sources. But my plea to you is, don’t escalate this in the press. It does not do anyone any favour. It does not help business. We are busy preparing the plant and we want to open next month,” he said.
G&P has indicated that it has a US$6,5 million war chest to rebuild Ran Mines, which made headlines in November, after its shafts collapsed under heavy flooding as torrential rains swept through Zimbabwe.
Businesswoman Angeline Munyeza heads Blackgate, which in 2010 was given full rights to mine at Ran Mines following an investigation into the dispute by a mining commissioner, who said it had demonstrated “serious commitment . . . to be allowed to resuscitate the old Ran Mines”.
In her letter to Mnangagwa, Munyeza said Zimbabwe lost about US$500 million in potential gold exports during the prolonged dispute.
She said Blackgate identified Ran Mines after previous owners left, but ran into problems after being swamped with complaints that it had intruded into G&P claims.
She said in November the government took the warring parties to the mine, but she was shocked when G&P said she must “keep quiet because the mine belongs to the first family”.
Munyeza is seeking clarity if it was true that Ran Mines’ ownership had transferred from Mugabe to Mnangagwa.
“It is in your best interest that I bring your attention to an issue of paramount importance that if left derelict, could derail and negate the efforts that are being made towards establishing a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023 — fighting the scourge of corruption that could ultimately result in the perpetuation of the abuse of your name and family by cunning, unscrupulous individuals within society,” Munyeza said.
“The dispute in question has been a prolonged one . . . emanating in 2008 . . . characterised by alarming levels of corruption within the Ministry of Mines and gross abuse of the name of the late President Robert Gabriel Mugabe as well as yours and your family members. These occurrences have led us to seek clarity . . . and . . . impartial recommendation as this matter infringes negatively on your reputation and integrity as you are the chief steward of the country,” Munyeza said.
The entire top hierarchy at the Ministry of Mines turned down requests to respond to businessDigest yesterday.
But presidential spokesman George Charamba said there was a worrying trend of conflicts over claims that the ministry has failed to address.
“I cannot confirm that we have received the letter at the President’s Office,” Charamba said.
“Maybe it is still on its way, but this is a clear message to the Ministry of Mines that the whole regime of assigning titles to claims must be tidied up. I am sure there is a need for intervention from the highest office. These conflicts are becoming more prevalent, with some of them violent, actually. There is a similar dispute that has been brought to my attention at Pfungwe. We are also familiar with unethical characters who try to prevail over their opponents through name dropping. Let them be warned that authorities will not take such behaviour kindly. If the President had an interest in the mine, such interest would have been declared,” Charamba told businessDigest.
Back in November, a Ran Mines’ shaft carved in hours after the site tour.
Days later, a stunned nation watched in horror as decomposing bodies of miners were lifted out of flooded tunnels.
But Munyeza said for her the shock had taken place when the group arrived at Ran Mines for the fact-finding mission, when government officials told her that the operation belonged to G&P Industries.
This was despite the fact that the mining commissioner had given Blackgate full right to redevelop the mine, according to official reports. There is corruption at a mass scale at the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development as they have failed to resolve the matter for the past seven years as ordered by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, which prejudiced the country of gold exports to the value of more than US$500 million.
Following an extensive investigation of the dispute, a mining commissioner assigned by the Ministry of Mines issued a report on January 18, 2009, which said the most important observation was that G&P had attempted to take over Ran Mines without original copies of registration from the previous owners.
The commissioner said it was difficult to understand how the mine kept changing hands without requisite papers.
Shumba said in contrast to G&P, Blackgate had produced its certificates.
However, it appeared G&P later appealed against the commissioner’s decision, setting the stage for the prolonged standoff.
Shumba recommended “Cancellation of claims held by G&P Industries and Ran Mines” and asked any aggrieved party to “appeal to the Minister of Mines”.