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Top Harare Officials Said To Be Implicated In 'Steelgate' Scandal

A Finance Ministry report on the alleged looting of the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company has been pulled out of circulation, government sources said, thickening the plot in the "Steelgate" scandal that some say is the biggest since independence.

Sources in the Finance Ministry said President Robert Mugabe's office had recalled the report from the handful of officials who had received copies, apparently to keep it from being leaked. It was written by the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate, a body that pools Central Intelligence Organization and Finance Ministry officials.

Trade Minister Obert Mpofu disclosed some of the findings last month to parliament. He told the industry and trade committee that the report implicates ministers, members of parliament and top Zisco managers who are alleged to have diverted resources of the state owned enterprise. The committee has not received the report.

Called before the committee a second time, Mpofu backtracked on his earlier claims, now suggesting that companies connected to such ministers and parliamentarians, not the officials themselves, were the ones behind the asset-stripping at Zisco.

Committee chairman and ZANU-PF member for Chipinge South Enoch Porusungazi told reporters in Harare on Tuesday that his committee has again summoned Mpofu to come before it next week. Porusungazi said the committee has concluded that the minister’s testimony on the corruption allegations contained inconsistencies.

The committee is also keen to grill Mpofu on his disclosure that he had struck a deal with Mangwana to withhold publication of the report, as this would scuttle plans to lure foreign investors. ZANU-PF insiders said the committee sought a copy of the report from Mangwana and Deputy Finance Minister David Chapfika on Tuesday.

Sources familiar with the contents of the report said it reported that the collapse of a joint venture between Zimbabwe and an Indian steel company to recapitalize and run Zisco was due to demands from officials for share stakes in the venture. The Indian company, Global Steel, had proposed to invest $400 million over 20 years.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe sought comment from Anti- Corruption Minister Paul Mangwana. He earlier threatened to arrest those involved in Zisco-related corruption, but said he cannot comment on intelligence reports.

British-based lawyer and political analyst Dewa Mavhinga told Blessing Zulu that he doubts the report will ever see the light of day.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...