The influential Zimbabwean Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma has thrown his weight behind an investigation by the Committee on Mines into questionable aspects of the government’s development of the diamond field in Chiadzwa, Marange district, Manicaland province where a range of abuses have been reported.
Parliamentary sources said Zvoma told the committee that it has the power to demand Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, Permanent Secretary Thankful Musukutwa and the elusive directors of Mbada Holdings, a partner with the government in developing the rich Marange field, answer questions on those business relations.
Sources said Zvoma told the committee Wednesday that it can exercise powers conferred by the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act should Mpofu and Mbada directors snub the panel.
Zvoma noted that the committee could discuss sensitive issues in closed session, depriving Mpofu and other officials and Mbada officers of the excuse that matters being investigated are currently in litigation.
Mines Committee Chairman Chindori Chininga could not be reached for comment. But panel member Moses Mare said the committee has sent final warning letters to Mpofu and the Mbada board of directors as to the risk of being found in contempt of Parliament.
The committee in particular wants to ask Mpofu and the Mbada directors about the planned January auction of some 300,000 carats of diamonds by Mbada Holdings, which was canceled at the last minute when the sale came to the attention of the government, conditions in Marange, the unauthorized construction of an airstrip in Marange and the transfer of at least 10 executives from the troubled Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to run Mines Ministry services dealing with Marange diamonds.
The committee says Reserve Bank executives dismally mismanaged the economy into near collapse through early 2009, so the ministry would be ill-advised to give them any purview over national diamond resources.
Meanwhile the Movement for Democratic change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has demanded that all mining in Marange be halted until the parliamentary probe is completed and the government has a coherent plan for developing the resource.
Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the precious diamond resources of the Marange field are serving only a few individuals and not the whole country.
Spokesman Rugare Gumbo of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party refused to comment when reached by VOA, saying the party stood by Mpofu.