A seething Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa allegedly charged at his shocked deputy Obert Gutu at their government offices in Harare on Friday in a heated verbal altercation over the Mutumwa Mawere saga.
Chinamasa summoned Gutu to his office and, according to sources who witnessed the incident, only fell short of slapping him in the face, in an incident that is said to have attracted a little crowd in the New Government Complex corridors on Friday morning.
Chinamasa allegedly gave Gutu what observers said was an unministerial tongue-lashing as he menacingly advanced towards the bemused lawyer, who reportedly managed to keep his cool.
The incident temporarily brought business at the offices to a halt.
Chinamasa was reportedly angry that Gutu had attacked him in the media over a press statement he released last weekend which poured cold water on Mawere’s bid to reclaim his vast business empire, SMM Holdings.
Gutu distanced himself from the statement and said it did not represent the ministry’s position.
He was also reportedly angry that Gutu had spoken to Afaras Gwaradzimba, the administrator of Mawere’s SMM Holdings.
Chinamasa, sources said, interpreted Gutu’s actions as tantamount to investigating him.
“Chinamasa was boiling with anger; he was seething, frothing at the mouth.
He was shouting at the top of his voice, like a man possessed, while advancing at Gutu, who appeared shell-shocked.
He kept asking Gutu what his motive was and what he was trying to achieve,” said a source.
“He later ordered him out of the office without giving him a chance to respond.”
Gutu refused to comment over the matter on Friday while more than a dozen attempts to call Chinamasa were fruitless as the minister’s mobile went unanswered.
Gutu said: “I cannot comment on the matter. I have no comment.”
Gwaradzimba confirmed speaking to Gutu over the SMM saga but refused to say what the discussion was about.
Chinamasa has received scathing criticism for his failure to follow the trail of misrepresentations which led to his reportedly ill-advised and unconstitutional decision to place SMM under reconstruction.
The reconstruction order was issued in terms of Section 4 of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Reconstruction of the state-indebted and solvent companies regulation.
The two acts under which Mawere was being charged, the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Reconstruction Act were now under the jurisdiction of the Home Affairs ministry and Ministry of Finance respectively.
The clash followed revelations in NewsDay last week that the judgment used to grab Mawere’s empire could have been fraudulently obtained due to misrepresentation of facts as SMM Holdings’ liabilities at the time did not qualify as state loans to the company.