HOME Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu yesterday caused a storm in Parliament and divided legislators, as he refused to answer questions on mining issues and the alleged missing $15 billion diamond revenue.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Tempers started to flare when Mpofu swore that he would not be grilled by the committee, as long as its chairperson, Temba Mliswa (Norton MP), presided over the meeting.
The former Mines minister claimed Mliswa was fighting a personal vendetta, saying the Norton MP once drove 600km to his home to discuss issues with him.
It was not clear if Mpofu was trying to avoid giving answers on allegations made earlier on by businessman, Lovemore Kurotwi that he had solicited for a $10 million bribe from him in order for the Mines ministry to allow his company, Canadile Miners, to extract diamonds from Chiadzwa.
Kurotwi, who had appeared before the Mines committee earlier, described Mpofu as “corrupt” like the deposed President Robert Mugabe.
The businessman said Mugabe could have been part of the problem as he failed to take any action against Mpofu, after he wrote to him detailing
how his then Mines minister had demanded a $10 million bribe from him and his foreign partners, Yeuda Litch and Subithry Naidoo.
“Mugabe was complicit, from the way he supported the corrupt tendencies of Mpofu, I would say he is corrupt,” Kurotwi said.
The businessman said when he refused to pay the $10 million bribe, Mpofu then hit back by pulling his company out of Chiadzwa and confiscating his equipment, which is now being used by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, while his 1,7 million carats of diamonds worth around $150 million were confiscated by the State.
Mpofu reportedly went further and got Kurotwi arrested on allegations that he had lied to the government that he would bring in diamond investment worth $2 billion.
He also allegedly roped in former ZMDC chairperson, Goodwills Masimirembwa and lawyer, Farai Mutamangira, to investigate him instead of engaging the police and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.
Mutamangira was said to have been paid close to $1 million for his services.
The ZMDC board, which also appeared before the committee, disclosed that over a period of six years, the government only got $189 million from diamonds.
But in 2009, Mpofu had bragged in Namibia that the country was expecting $2 billion in diamond revenue.
When Mpofu appeared before the committee after Kurotwi, the minister seemed angry and gave snide remarks to MPs when they tried to instruct him on the proceedings.
Mpofu told the legislators they could not lecture him on Parliament, as he has been a legislator since 1997.
Asked by Musikavanhu MP Prosper Mutseyami to withdraw the statement, Mpofu responded: “I am not going to withdraw because I have not taken an oath before the committee.”
Mliswa replied: “We expect leaders like you to respect other MPs.”
Mpofu later addressed Mliswa as “comrade” instead of “honourable” and the issue caused another storm.
Mpofu said he was angry because the committee had not sent him a formal invitation to appear before them, adding that he had read it from newspapers.
He said as former Mines minister, he could not take questions for a ministry that he no longer presided over.
“I have no mandate to speak for the ministry of Mines and you must be aware of that comrade,” Mpofu said
“I have been abused by the chairman (Mliswa), who has been saying things in public, attacking me and maligning me.
“I have been attacked by the chairman in the papers, where he has called me names, yet he nicodemously comes to my house in the cover of the night to talk about things.
“I live 600km from here.”
Mliswa denied the claims, saying he only visited Mpofu’s home to discuss Zanu PF issues pertaining to the fallout with former secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, and not diamond issues.
He said Mpofu was trying to mislead Parliament.
Mpofu responded: “For as long as he (Mliswa) is sitting in front of me presiding on this issue, I will not co-operate.”
As Mpofu continued to refuse to take questions from MPs, Zanu PF legislators, Masango Matambanadzo (Kwekwe Central) and Dexter Nduna (Chegutu West) began to defend him.
This resulted in MPs shouting and pointing fingers at each other.
Mpofu asked to be excused for a few minutes claiming that he wanted to wash his hands.
When he returned, he stuck to his guns, saying: “I will never, ever be presided over by Mliswa.”
Mliswa responded: “You know why you are avoiding me because I deal with facts. You will not get away with murder.”
Mpofu then accused Mliswa of threatening him.
“I have never seen such an unprofessional chairperson.
“(The late former chairperson of the Mines Portfolio Committee) Edward Chindori Chininga and (former Mines Committee chairperson) Daniel Shumba were professional and never behaved like this,” he said.
This further irked the legislators, who warned Mpofu he could be charged with contempt of Parliament.
Seeing that the meeting had degenerated into complete chaos, Mliswa then sent MPs for a lunch break and ordered Mpofu to appear before the committee in the afternoon.
Mpofu then went out shouting: “I am not coming back. I will only come when you invite me formally. You want to abuse me.”
He did not return.
Mliswa said the committee would now prepare a report on Mpofu’s behaviour to be handed over to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda.
He said Mpofu would be allowed to give his side of the story and reasons why he did not want Mliswa to preside over the meeting.