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Provincial Minister Allegedly Interfering in Marange Diamond Mining

Parliament’s enquiry into the operations of the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust and the Chiadzwa diamond mining companies continued on Thursday with Manicaland Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Chris Mushowe being grilled over his alleged interference in the operations of the trust.

Mushowe was also quizzed over the state’s failure to produce evidence showing the companies had pledged $10 million each to the trust.

Mushowe told parliament’s indigenization and economic empowerment committee he did not have written evidence on the pledges, adding he had only received instructions from former Indigenization Minister Saviour Kasukuwere asking him to follow up on the alleged promises.

He said going by Kasukuwere’s letter, the diamond companies had pledged $10 million each.

Representatives of the companies - Anjin, Mbada Diamonds, Diamond Mining Company and Marange Resources - told the committee a few weeks ago that though they are willing to contribute to the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust, which is meant to benefit the community, they had not made the alleged pledges.

Mushowe told parliament that the companies were lying.

Lawmaker Yeukai Simbanegavi asked the provincial minister to produce the written agreements between the government and the companies. Mushowe did not have the agreements.

Last week, Indigenization Minister Francis Nhema told the committee that there was no written agreement between the government and the companies for them to provide $10 million each as seed money to the community trust saying.

He said he was investigating the issue, adding the agreement was “a gentlemen’s” agreement which was not on paper.

Mushowe, however, said he has reported the matter to President Robert Mugabe and the Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa whom he said is working hard to ensure the diamond companies pay their dues.

The companies said they have spent millions building houses to resettle the displaced villagers and paid for other responsibilities to improve the community. But Mushowe said that is not enough.

Zimbabwe Indigenous Economic Empowerment Organization president, Paddington Japajapa, told Studio 7 that the committee must call former Indigenization Minister Kasukuwere to clear the air surrounding the pledges.

He said he supports government legislation compelling mining companies to fund community trusts in the areas they operate.

Only two of the diamond companies - Marange and Mbada Diamonds - have paid $200,000 each to the Marange-Zimunya Trust which is not yet operational.

Trustees told the committee political interference was hindering the operations of the trust. Mushowe, who was fingered as one of those interfering too much, on Thursday said his role as provincial minister is to ensure the trust runs smoothly.

The Marange mining activities last year contributed a paltry $200 million to the fiscus. Activists have long complained that there’s need for transparency in the mining and marketing of the diamonds and other mineral resources in the country.

The companies mining in Marange also told the committee that the diamonds are fast running out.