Parliament on Wednesday said it would take stern measures against Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa after he failed to turn up for a portfolio committee cross-examination for the third time in less than a month, without an official excuse, and gave him the last chance to appear for questioning.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy wants Chinamasa to explain the controversial take-over of SMM Holdings Zimbabwe, the conflict sparked by government’s wanton interest in the company, including equity issues, and why the Shabanie and Mashava mines collapsed under reconstruction despite receiving state aid.
More precisely, the committee is eager to determine whether Chinamasa adhered to the country’s anti-corruption and reconstruction laws and whether administration issues were carried out above board.
But thrice this month, on December 6, 13 and 15, Chinamasa failed to turn up for questioning, giving unconvincing excuses.
The questioning, which was scheduled to start at 10am yesterday, was called off nearly an hour after the 10-member portfolio committee had sat.
“The minister did not come . . . We are now calling him to appear before the committee on the 10th of January (next year). So, the letter is being written to the minister to again request him to appear before the committee on the 10th. The committee will follow the procedure as required by the law and Parliament,” portfolio committee chairman Edward Chindori-Chininga said.
“If he fails to appear after three requests, then the committee will take necessary measures in accordance with the law.”
Chindori-Chininga, a former Mines minister, said the committee was unhappy with Chinamasa’s contempt and flagrant disregard of procedure, avoiding the organ and choosing instead to telephone the House of Assembly Speaker Lovemore Moyo and the Deputy Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda explaining his position.
Chinamasa is said to have told Moyo and Chokuda that he needed more time to prepare for the cross-examination, as he had flown back into the country on Tuesday.
But sources confirmed Chinamasa was on his way to a Zanu PF central committee meeting, a forerunner to the party’s national congress that opens in Manicaland today, around the time Chindori-Chininga and his team were waiting for him.
The portfolio committee was also clued-up of the itinerary.
“We regret that this kind of scenario is going on because it is not the committee position to be in confrontation with the minister,” Chindori-Chininga said.
“We are not accusing the minister. We want to hear his side of the story in terms of SMM and decide on who is right and who is wrong.
“What we want to know is whether he did things in accordance with the anti-corruption law and the reconstruction law and whether the administration issues were carried out in accordance with the laws and why those two mines did close despite having received the required (financial) support.”
Cabinet and Parliament decided to pry into the issue after suspecting Chinamasa and SMM Zimbabwe administrator Afaras Gwaradzimba might have conspired to conceal the truth about the take-over of SMM Zimbabwe and it’s disputed state-indebtedness and contested shareholding, for reasons still unknown.
Chinamasa is widely held responsible for muscling the enactment of the Reconstruction of State-Indebted & Insolvent Companies Act and scheming the aggressive take-over of SMM Zimbabwe, the local subsidiary of UK-registered SMM Holdings Limited, from South Africa-based Zimbabwean business magnate Mutumwa Mawere through its provisions.
Mawere, who was in the process of acquiring SMM Holdings Limited from UK’s T&N when government annexed the company and placed it on reconstruction in September 2004, has already appeared before the portfolio committee to give oral evidence about the issues in question.
Mawere accuses Chinamasa of misleading the nation, including President Robert Mugabe, with claims that SMM Zimbabwe was state-indebted and that government had successfully acquired SMM Holdings Limited from T&N through Gwaradzimba’s AMG Global Chartered Accountants.
It has since emerged, however, that government’s bid to register AMG Global in the UK as the new shareholder of SMM Zimbabwe’s parent in the UK failed after losing a court challenge by Mawere in a British High Court.
A huge stock of evidence has also built proving Chinamasa’s definition of state-indebtedness is warped.
It has also emerged that Shabanie and Mashava mines may have collapsed due to financial abuse and mismanagement.