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Directors of Mining Firms Finally Testify in Zimbabwe Parliament Diamond Probe


Mining company directors had for weeks refused to respond to the committee on the advice of Mines Minister Obert Mpofu and his permanent secretary, but were told they risked going to jail if they failed to show up to testify

Directors of mining companies in partnership with the Zimbabwean government to develop the controversial Marange diamond field finally appeared Tuesday before Parliament's Committee on Mines after being legally summoned by irate House officials.

The directors had for weeks refused to respond to the committee on the advice of Mines Minister Obert Mpofu and his permanent secretary, but were told they risked going to jail if they failed to show up to testify.

Led by retired Zimbabwe Air Vice Marshall Robert Mhlanga representing Mbada and Corgan Matanhire for Canadile, the directors were quizzed for more than four hours by committee members over Marange deals and the attempted auction in January of 300,000 carats of diamonds, among other related issues.

VOA Studio 7 correspondent Irwin Chifera reported from Parliament that legislators were not pleased with some responses they got from Mbada and the chairman of the committee, Chindori Chininga, repeatedly warned the executives they would face charges if they lied.

The committee said it will send a fact-finding mission to the Marange district of Manicaland province at the end of the week to investigate operations firsthand.

Mines Committee member Moses Mare told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that his panel was pleased it could finally question the directors.

Committee members expressed particular concerned at the Zimbabwean government's failure to receive more than token revenues from diamonds mined in the area, which is also called Chiadzwa, continuing leakages of diamonds to the black market and apparent conflicts of interest on the part of board members.

The committee last week quizzed Mpofu about the Marange deals as it increasingly emerged that no due diligence was conducted on the companies now mining in Marange though they have been linked to shady individuals and alleged fugitives from justice.

Mpofu conceded to the committee last week that some officials of the two companies had questionable records but maintained that it was virtually impossible in the diamond industry to find reputable partners.

Some Canadile directors were said to have been active in shady dealings in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The boards are also stuffed with Zimbabwean military people, including retired soldier Lovemore Kurotwi, the chairman of Canadile. Robert Mhlanga's daughter, Patience, also sits on the Mbada board.

Committee members also expressed concern that neither Mbada nor Canadile had experience in diamond mining, learning that Mbada is controlled by Reclamation Group, a South African scrap metal and iron dealer.

Mhlanga, who is based in Sandton, South Africa, was a key state witness in the trial of Morgan Tsvangirai, now prime minister, on treason charges in 2003. He testified about his contacts with ex-Israeli spy Ari-Ben Menashe who testified in the trial that Tsvangirai hired him to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

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