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Zimbabwe House Panel Summons Entire Board of Diamond Mining Firm

Robert Mhlanga, a former Air Force vice Marshal, told the House Mining Committee that he was prepared to answer all questions about the Marange operations of his Mbada Holdings firm, but the committee insisted on quizzing all directors

The Zimbabwe Parliament’s Committee on Mines refused Monday to hear testimony by Robert Mhlanga, chairman of Mbada Holdings, one of the companies developing the controversial Marange diamond field in partnership with the government, when Mhlanga showed up for a hearing without the other members of the company's board.

Mbada is a joint venture between the state-controlled Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and private investors to develop the Marange field in eastern Manicaland province where human rights abuses by the military and illegal gem exports have been alleged.

Mhlanga, a former Air Force vice marshal and a known player in Zimbabwean mining ventures launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo, told the committee he was prepared to answer all questions about his firm's operations in Marange and its s attempted sale of some 300,000 carats of raw diamonds in January. The auction at Harare International Airport was called off at the last minute when prime minister's office got wind of it.

The committee declined to take testimony from Mhlanga alone, putting off the hearing for one week and instructing him to show up with all of the members of the Mbada board of directors.

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu is also expected to come before the committee next week to face questions about his seizure of diamonds which had been sequestered at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe by court order pending resolution of a lawsuit between the government and London-based African Consolidated Resources.

The government stripped ACR of a concession to mine the Marange field which it had earlier been awarded, but a High Court ruling upheld ACR's rights and the Supreme Court subsequently ordered that diamonds seized from ACR or later extracted from the alluvial deposits be held until the case was settled.