Commission probes dodgy Zim deals

The Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority have stepped in to pore over several contentious empowerment transactions involving foreign-owned mining companies.

Following complaints by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono that indigenisation deals being signed with the government were shady, the Anti-Corruption Commission last week moved to investigate the transactions that have caused an uproar within the government.

Anti-Corruption Commission general manager of investigations Sukai Tongogara on February 25 applied for a search warrant to be issued to the antigraft body to facilitate investigations into the allegations.

Court documents seen by the Mail & Guardian show that the Anti-Corruption Commission wanted permission to raid government and company offices to seize a register of all mining companies that have complied with the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.

The body also wanted copies of agreements entered into between the mining companies and/or the government and the communities; contract documents concerning the engagement of consultancy companies, namely Top Harvest and Brainworks; community share ownership trust documents concerning Unki Mine, Mimosa Mine, Zimplats and Murowa Diamonds; and any other documents that may be relevant to the matter.

Warrants denied
However, the Harare Magistrate's Court last week refused to grant the search warrants, saying that the  Anti-Corruption Commission must work with the police.

The Anti-Corruption Commission Act provides that an officer of the commission who intends to make any search, entry, or seizure for purposes of the law should "notify the officer commanding the police district in which the officer intends to make the search, entry or seizure and be accompanied by a police officer assigned to him or her".

The Anti-Corruption Commission last week announced it would also investigate the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board over the $971-million Zimplats deal that was facilitated by Brainworks Capital Management, which is expected to get a 1.5% consultation fee out of the deal.

Brainworks, run by George Manyere, who is said to be close to Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, was involved in other empowerment transactions, including the $550-million Mimosa deal, Anglo American's $142-million agreement, Pretoria Portland Cement's $27.8-million and Caledonia's $30-million. Thanks to the 1.5% consultation fee, Brainworks is set to rake in $25.8-million from the deals.

Brainworks has rejected allegations of corruption as "untrue and malicious", but has not explained how it clinched all the deals or how it decided on the amount for the consultation fee.

Brainworks has not yet received any money, but recently wrote to Zimplats demanding payment. Zimplats refused to honour the payment, saying that it is the obligation of the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board to settle the account.

Cost burden
The government's position under the indigenisation law is that shareholders must pay for the 51% of the company to be ceded to locals. In this case, Zimplats' parent, Implats, must bear the cost.

The M&G has also been informed by sources close to the deals that Zimbabwe Revenue Authority officials visited the offices of Zimplats and Brainworks on Monday and Tuesday in connection with the transactions. Officials at the authority who did not want to be named confirmed that the body is investigating possible tax evasion.

The RBZ last Wednesday and Thursday summoned Zimplats to complain that its indigenisation deal did not comply with exchange rate rules and regulations.

As clashes between government and Zanu-PF officials intensified last week, President Robert Mugabe joined the fray, saying Kasukuwere had made a mistake.

"The problem is that companies gave us 51%, saying this was a debt which you are supposed to pay … that is where the difference is," Mugabe said last week.

"I think that is where our minister made a mistake. He did not quite understand what was happening and yet theory is that the resources are ours and that resource is our share. That is where the 51% comes from," he said.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti has criticised the policy and said that it was "illegal" in some respects.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has urged Parliament to investigate the whole programme, which has now been discredited by allegations of corruption in the form of extortion, bribery, cronyism and patronage.

Kasukuwere refused to comment on the matter.

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