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Zimbabwe House Panel Sees Cabinet Suppressing Corruption Report

Sources in the Zimbabwean house say that President Robert Mugabe’s cabinet has blocked the presentation in parliament of a committee report on alleged asset-looting at the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company, or ZISCO, in a burgeoning scandal.

The house committee on trade and industry conducted its own investigation into the alleged high-level corruption in and around ZISCO, producing the report.

Recommendations in the report urge parliamentary leaders to invoke special powers to prosecute Trade Minister Obert Mpofu for giving "contradicting, false" evidence.

The investigation arose from the collapse of an agreement with Global Steel of India to Indian inject US$400 million into the state-owned firm over 20 years. The deal is said to have collapsed when Zimbabwean officials demanded stakes in the venture. The Indian partner is also said to have been appalled by the state of operations at the enterprise, which has been hobbled by irregular deliveries of iron or and coal.

Mpofu has acknowledged that the deal cannot be revived, and ZISCO is now hunting for a new chief executive following the collapse of the short-lived joint venture.

The committee first learned from Mpofu that the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate had issued a report said to implicate ministers, lawmakers and senior ZISCO managers in the diversion of assets and resources of the enterprise.

Called before the committee a second time, Mpofu backtracked and said the unnamed officials that he had implicated were not personally involved in looting ZISCO but merely had ties to companies that were connected with the scandal.

Sources close to the investigation said senate president Edna Madzongwe and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa ordered the chairman of the trade and industry committee, Enoch Porusingazi, to shelve the report until the return Tuesday of parliamentary speaker John Nkomo, said to be away this week in Europe.

Porusingazi’s committee has written to Nkomo asking him to open proceedings to prosecute Mpofu for giving misleading testimony to the committee.

Meanwhile, Anti-Corruption Minister Paul Mangwana, countering charges from house officials that the cabinet is stonewalling the ZISCO scandal, said there was no reason to think that the government would interfere with the business of parliament.

Lawyer Dewa Mavhinga, a program officer for the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, said the scandal illustrated the extent of corruption in Zimbabwe.

More reports From VOA Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...