By Plaxedes Sibanda, HARARE, February 22 – Businessman Lovemore Kurotwi says former mines minister Obert Mpofu demanded a $10 million bribe after giving his company a licence to mine diamonds in the Chiadzwa diamond fields in 2009.
Kurotwi also told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy that he believed former president Robert Mugabe was ‘very corrupt’ after he (Kurotwi) was arrested soon after a meeting with him. At the meeting, which included then mines minister Mpofu, Kurotwi told Mugabe that Mpofu was demanding a bribe of $10 million for a licence to mine in the verdant Chiadzwa diamond fields.
Kurotwi was arrested in 2010 for allegedly misrepresenting to ZMDC that Core Mining was a subsidiary of Anglo-Australian mining group, Beny Steimetz Group Resources, and that the miner would invest $2 billion in the venture. The case was eventually dismissed by the High Court in 2016.
Mpofu, who was mines minister between 2009 and 2013, and Kurotwi’s company, Core Mining and Minerals, had won the tender during Amos Midzi’s tenure as minister to mine in Chiadzwa under Canadile, a joint venture with the State-controlled Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.
Appearing before the Mines and Mining Development parliamentary portfolio, Kurotwi, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Diamond Centre (ZDC) said that he he feels that he was arrested as a ‘fix’ for not paying the bribe.
“(Core Mining director) Yehuda Litcht used to complain to me that the Minister (Mpofu) is asking for money. He did that I think three times asking for money from Yehuda, until Yehuda did not know what to tell the Minister. He was asking money for getting the permission to mine in Chiadzwa. That was the money to bribe for permission to get the licence,” said Kurotwi.
“I refused to give him money, that’s where we had friction with him…We had serious problems until the matter was known by the former president (Robert Mugabe).We (Kurotwi, Mugabe and Mpofu) had the meeting which took place for more than five hours. The president told Mpofu that he did not have the right to demand money from us.”
During the legal wrangle that followed, Mpofu confiscated $10,6 million cash which was with MMCZ, mining equipment worth $14 million and 1,4 million carats of diamond in Canadile’s Mutare vaults, Kurotwi told the committee.
He also added that Mpofu ordered Canadile, ZMDC and MMCZ to pay a total of $600,000 to a lawyer Farai Mutamangira for unknown legal processes.
He has yet to get back the confiscated equipment and money. The equipment was now being used by the government owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), which government set up in 2016 after chasing away miners in the Chiadzwa fields, he added.
The committee chairperson, Temba Mliswa asked Kurotwi if he thought Mugabe was corrupt and if he was part of the (demand for a bribe by Mpofu).
“From the way he defended Mpofu; yes,” responded Kurotwi.
The businessman added that he does not have trust in the new government of Emmerson Mnangagwa which has Mpofu as the Minister of Home Affairs.
Canadile, the ZMDC/Core Mining joint venture, mined a total of 1,7 million carats of diamonds worth $150 million between December 2009 and November 2010.
“In as far as investors are concerned; in my own view, Zimbabwe is lion’s den. Investors will come at their own peril because there is no guarantee that when you invest you will get your money back. I am a victim of that, it has taken almost 10 years to recover what we had invested genuinely. The company was lured to invest in this country, ” said Kurotwi.