Directors of Mbada Holdings, a firm in partnership with the Zimbabwean government to develop the highly controversial Marange diamond field, on Monday again failed to appear before Parliament's mines committee despite repeated requests by the panel.
The committee had ordered Mbada Holdings Chairman Robert Mhlanga, a former Zimbabwean air vice marshal, to produce the entire Mbada board to respond to questions from the panel on the company's role in developing the Marange field in eastern Manicaland province, and its attempt to hold a diamond auction in January that officials canceled at the last minute.
Mhlanga earlier told the committee some directors were not available to testify. But on Monday the committee received letters from Mbada and a related firm called Canadile, Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu and Mines Ministry Permanent Secretary Thankful Msukutwa saying they cannot give testimony in Parliament because a mining case is before the courts.
The court case pits the government against the London-registered African Consolidated Resources which was kicked out of Marange by the army in 2006 but has since been adjudged by the courts to be the rightful owner of mining rights on two claims in the field. The government has appealed the decision and the case is still pending in Zimbabwe's court system.
The parliamentary committee has now sent a final letter to the directors instructing them to appear before the committee, failing which it will invoke the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act, possibly resulting in charges of contempt of Parliament.
Members of Parliament of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party were summoned to a party caucus last week to discuss the Marange situation with Mpofu.
Sources said senior ZANU-PF officials sought to force lawmakers of the party to ease the investigation into Mbada, Mpofu and Marange diamonds.
But the sources said lawmakers refused to let go of the issue, accusing Mpofu of cronyism and worse.
The ZANU-PF parliamentarians said Mpofu should answer all questions put to him by the committee. Some charged that the production of diamonds from the rich alluvial field has been significantly understated by all involved in the exploitation of the resource.
Mines Committee Chairman Chindori Chininga, who is a member of ZANU-PF, is a former mines minister.
Lawmaker Moses Mare, a member of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the Mines Committee will continue to pursue the Mbada directors under the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act.