FORMER Mines minister Obert Mpofu yesterday bragged before High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu that he was so rich and would not stoop so low as to demand kickbacks from prospective miners as alleged by Core Mining and Mineral Resources director Lovemore Kurotwi.
Mpofu, who is now Transport minister, was responding to Kurotwi’s claims that the minister had demanded $10 million from him as kickback for approving the latter’s diamond mining activities in Chiadzwa five years ago.
Mpofu said he had been a businessman for many years and was so rich that he could even employ Kurotwi and his co-accused, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) chief executive Dominic Mubaiwa.
Mpofu said the allegation levelled against him by Kurotwi was “a well-choreographed drama instigated by his [Kurotwi’s] lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa” in a move meant to please the media.
The minister made the remarks after Chief Law Officer Chris Mutangadura suggested to him that Kurotwi had denied in his defence outline ever causing the government a $2 billion potential investment prejudice in a diamond mining joint venture, but claimed the minister wanted to fix him through the current charges for refusing to pay a $10 million kickback.
“It’s a serious joke that he would say something like that, but anyway he never said it to the President; that is a drama that has been well-choreographed by Mtetwa. He didn’t say that [to the President], that’s nonsensical, people always say that when they are cornered. I would never even ask for a bottle of water from him, I take great exception to that allegation,” Mpofu said.
Asked to comment further on a Shona utterance he is alleged to
have made to Kurotwi saying: “Gentlemen, I have done my part, now give me what is due to me,” Mpofu said: “I am not conversant in Shona, all my colleagues have never heard me say things in the manner he dramatised it. That’s just some drama meant for the consumption of the media.”
“Had something of that sort ever happened, I would not have been in employment by now.”
Mutangadura further asked the minister to clarify on the meetings he was alleged to have conducted with Kurotwi in South Africa, to which he replied: “I did not see him in South Africa and I don’t remember seeing him ever. The whole thing is nonsensical.”
While closing his evidence-in-chief, Mpofu was asked if he had any reasons to lie against Kurotwi and Mubaiwa and he said: “I have no reasons to lie, I am a minister; I do not lie, I have been a businessman for a long time and I can employ these guys.”
Mpofu said the fraud allegations against Kurotwi and Mubaiwa arose after the two men allegedly tampered with a mining agreement that had been drafted by the Attorney-General (AG)’s Office in a joint venture between Marange Resources and an Israeli firm, BSGR.
The minister said he had issues with Mubaiwa, who was an employee under his ministry and who had allowed the process to be compromised.
“Allowing that process to be compromised was improper, it was done without clearance from his superiors. I do not know how they [Mubaiwa and Kurotwi] related to each other, but my reference is with accused one [Mubaiwa] who was supposed to advise me properly,” Mpofu said.
He further said he instigated investigations of the two men after receiving several reports of some directors that had been arrested for dealing in diamonds.
The trial continues today with Justice Bhunu expected to deliver a ruling on an application by the State for admission of a document authored by Mubaiwa, which document is being challenged by Kurotwi.
Mubaiwa is represented by Advocate Lewis Uriri.