Kudzai Mashininga in Harare
Zimbabwe’s Parliament has delayed a scheduled hearing for the country’s former president Robert Mugabe over diamond corruption initially, citing the absence of key members attending a Pan African Parliament session in neighbouring South Africa.
Mugabe was due to appear in Parliament on Wednesday 9 May.
Mugabe’s appearance before the Mines and Mining Development Committee, the first time that he will be forced to account for his actions while in charge of the country, is now expected to be within the next two weeks.
The former president ruled the country for nearly four decades before being forced from office in November last year and his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has pledged to crack down on corruption.
The country’s Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda and Mines and Energy committee chairperson Temba Mliswa are among those who are attending the Pan African Parliament session in South Africa.
In an interview from South Africa, Mliswa said Mugabe is not off the hook yet.
“First of all, he is still coming. We have recommended and resolved that he comes as the parliamentary committee on mines and energy because we feel that the report cannot be concluded without his input, that is one thing that you must understand. Secondly, I am away, and the speaker and many people are away because of the Pan African Parliament elections which are going on in South Africa,” Mliswa told the Mail and Guardian.
“He will be called, definitely he is coming. There is no way that he can’t come. When we get back next week or the week after he will be able to come. We will give him 10 days’ notice and the clerk of Parliament will write the letter, so he is coming.”
Political analyst and Tshwane University of Technology senior lecturer Rick Mukonza said there is a possibility of behind the scenes negotiations for Mugabe to dodge parliament.
“if he ends up not coming, the development will militate against the new regime’s efforts to present itself as a reformed government that has transparency and accountability as its core values,” said Mukonza.
Zimbabwe’s vast diamond wealth has been largely squandered through mismanagement and corruption. Even Mugabe himself once admitted that some $15-billion in diamond revenue remains unaccounted for.
Powerful political figures have appeared before the parliamentary mines committee in recent months to account for the missing diamond billions and Mugabe is expected to be the last among those the committee want to quiz.
Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu, former state security minister Didymus Mutasa, former police minister Ignatius Chombo and others have already appeared before the committee.
Last month, former mines secretary Francis Gudyanga appeared before the committee and said his life was under threat from “dark forces” if he discloses what he knows about diamond-related corruption.
Testimony from top security officials has confirmed long-standing reports that security agencies such as the Central Intelligence Organisation and the Zimbabwe Republic Police at times used diamond mining to fund their operations. The Zimbabwe Defence Forces, which has previously been implicated in serious human rights abuses at the Marange diamond fields, including the killing of civilians, has not heeded calls to appear before the committee.