Parliamentary hearing ‘too early’ for Mugabe

(Aaron Ufumeli/EPA)

(Aaron Ufumeli/EPA)

Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe failed to turn up for a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday where he was due to give evidence on corruption in the diamond mining industry.

The 94-year-old, who is in frail health, had been summoned to a session at 9am; when he did not arrive, lawmakers rescheduled the session for Monday May 28.

Committee head Temba Mliswa, an independent lawmaker, told reporters that the parliamentary committee was “cognizant of the fact that 9am was a bit too early” for the former president to show up. He said the Monday session had been set for 2pm, although no one in Mugabe’s office would say whether or not the nonagenarian would attend.

Lawmakers want to question Mugabe over his 2016 claim that Zimbabwe lost $15-billion in revenue because of corruption and foreign exploitation in the diamond sector.

“We are not here to humiliate him; we expect him to have enough time to prepare. So on Monday at 2pm we expect him here,” Mliswa said, although he admitted that Mugabe was not legally obliged to attend.

Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe from 1980 until he was ousted from office in November, following a brief military takeover. He denounced his ousting as a coup and has not been seen in public since. His authoritarian regime has been accused of siphoning off diamond profits.

He was replaced by his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, a veteran loyalist in the ruling Zanu-PF party, who was backed by senior military officers.

Zimbabwe discovered alluvial diamonds in Chiadzwa, in the east of the country, more than 10 years ago. Rights groups have accused security forces of using brutal methods to control the scattered deposits.

The parliamentary committee has already interviewed former ministers, police and intelligence chiefs about the mining industry in Chiadzwa.

Zimbabwe has allowed several diamond companies to mine the area — most of them as joint ventures between the government and Chinese firms — but there have been widespread allegations of mass looting.

In July, Zimbabwe is to hold elections, the first since Mugabe was unseated, and Zanu-PF is widely predicted to retain power.

Mnangagwa has vowed to hold a fair and free vote, and has pledged to revive the moribund economy by repairing international ties and attracting foreign investment. — AFP

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