Mugabe's shock U-turn: The real story

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s stinging remarks that ex-Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) chairman Godwills Masimirembwa had solicited for a $6 million bribe allegedly fell apart after a police probe exposed numerous inconsistencies in the Ghanaian investor’s story, the Daily News can reveal.

Until Thursday’s shocking admission by the 90-year-old Zanu PF leader that his September 2013 eruption that the Mabvuku-Tafara parliamentary aspirant was involved in funny money deals could have been wrong, Masimirembwa and several others in the Marange diamond business were in limbo about their fate.

But as details of the major climb-down emerge, most of the Daily News prior investigations of the scandal and discoveries are being confirmed or tally with the police probe.

“I was persuaded to allow Ghanaians zvichinzi, aah, vane (I was informed they had) ... capacity,” Mugabe said in a televised address last week.

“One of them was said to be the owner of a bank. Twakatinyepera twuvakomana itwotwo. You see, liars. In the meantime, they did not bring any money at all. Even iya yataiti yakatorwa naMasimirembwa.

No! They had given the story kuti they had brought some money. Was it $5 million or $6 million, yakatorwa?

“They were busy here smuggling gold and selling it vachitova nearrangement neSouth African group and that is why one of the two was arrested. The other one pleaded innocent and said he was ignorant.

He was not related to the one that was arrested. Kutinyepera.

That the one who was arrested is a brother except that baba ndovakasiyana chete,” he added.

“Now we discover they did not bring anything, we discover that he does not own a bank he claimed he had. Yes, he was a director in a bank, Ecobank in Ghana, but he does not own it. Takamuti come now zvikanzi mapurisa anoda kundisunga. Vanokusungirei? You are protected. The lies he has told.”

And even though the veteran leader has tried to present himself as a man of integrity by admitting to his earlier mistake, the Daily News can reveal today that the bribery story could have crumbled on six key points or fronts:

- that William Atto Essien had frustrated all efforts by police to obtain a statement or official complaint regarding the huge cash pile, despite a seven-day visit by local police to Ghana and;

- Essien’s August 2011 travel arrangement and account was hugely contradictory in that he left Accra on a South African Airways flight to South Africa, and yet he says he arrived in the country on a Kenya Airways jet.

- Thirdly, official records across three key frontiers — Harare, Accra and Nairobi — indicate that Essien, and his female assistant Emelia Hutchful did not check in any bags at any of those exit, and arrival points.

- Ghanaian customs officials have pooh-poohed the self-styled tycoon’s assertions that he had carried such a huge amount of money, as internal regulations prohibit people from exporting cash in excess of
$10 000.

- A police trial run revealed that the $5 million bounty — comprising 50 bricks of $100 000 (in $100 notes) and weighing 55kg — could not fit in a medium-sized bag or suitcase, which Zimbabwean customs official Benita Chitofu said the Ghanaian duo was carrying.

- Lastly, the vaunted cash import happened way ahead of the consummation of the diamond investment deal between Essien’s Bill Minerals (Bill), and the ZMDC, and Gye Nyame Resources (GNR)’s incorporation.

And as Zimbabweans are still trying to digest the meaning of Mugabe’s embarrassing about-turn, theories also abound regarding his sudden change of heart and who could have possibly given him such flawed intelligence about the West African businessmen.

As it is, a raft of official and independent reports — commissioned post the nonagenarian president’s ballistic attack on Masimirembwa, and in October 2013 — project the Ghanaians as a bunch of “crooked” investors motivated by illegal gold and gem deals in the country.

For instance, Essien and company not only reneged on a promise to inject nearly $110 million in working capital for the mine, but largely transacted in cash for most of their transactions here and worked in furtherance of their Fist Capital Plus (FCP) micro-finance business all the time.

The Daily News also exposed this last year.

According to a September 2011 to July 2013 report by BDO Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants, close to $3 million of GNR funds was used for unrelated business and the company was wracked by poor accounting.

And at a time when the foreign investor was expected to pump significant amounts of money into the diamond venture — 50 percent owned by government, 30 by GNR and another 20 percent in police hands — the Bill founders resorted to local borrowings, especially from Ecobank and Metbank Limited.

As the situation at the mine deteriorated to a point that creditors exceeded $6,5 million, and workers had been unpaid for a year, a group led by Itayi Munyeza and Blessmore Chanakira tried to rescue the operation by putting in $10 million.

However, the Dantor Investments duo and consortium — partially helped, and identified by the former ZMDC chairman — was frustrated to a point it had also given up.

According to the reports, Essien and company had virtually neglected the Marange concession through underfunding, misappropriation of cash and had only brought a South African-made 20 tonne dense media separator — largely mortgaged to Ecobank — as well as a 1969 lorry as key equipment.

But prior to the official and independent investigations into the Ghanaians’ $6 million saga, it was Harare businessman Manson Mnaba’s board which first drilled a number of holes into the Bill founders’ story.

After determining that Essien’s companies had not invested anything beyond $8,5 million, the board recommended that the West Africans be booted out of the concession.

While the courageous and principled position was to prove the turning point for GNR’s change of fortunes, Mnaba’s team went on to identify a more competent investor — although it is still unknown what the outcome of this exercise and recommendation was.

Crucially, the board’s position came after independent and official investigating teams had stated that Masimirembwa’s corporation had proceeded to work with the Ghanaians, and yet a number of earlier due diligences had rubbished or discounted FCP’s capacity to invest in the Chiadzwa-based miner.

So bad was the situation, if not working relationship, that Bill was accused of circulating a joint venture agreement exonerating them of any obligation to capitalise the mine when the original document stated as such.

Comments (14)

so zrp had 20% share in the deal? is that allowed at law.how does the police investigate a case it has interest?who lied to president mugabe.may president mugabe name those who lied to him.why has president mugabe not deal with those who lied to him.

mukanya - 25 February 2014

so zrp had 20% share in the deal? is that allowed at law.how does the police investigate a case it has interest?who lied to president mugabe.may president mugabe name those who lied to him.why has president mugabe not deal with those who lied to him.

mukanya - 25 February 2014

wat kind of a president ventures into a business deal that have national effect without thorough probe. ndobasa reCIO iroro kwete kuuraya vanhu. problem ndeyekuti matibili thinks he owns this our Zimbabwe. iwe nkabetayi ka...the people are angry.

kunyepa - 25 February 2014

How can ZRP have a 20% stake in a mine. This is totally out of this world. Anyway, how much does ZRP generate in traffic fines and how is the money accounted for since it is not surrendered to treasury. The talk of fighting corruption in Zim is child's play bcoz all the structures and mechanisms for its perpetuation are intact.

Rook - 25 February 2014

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Get your roof fixed - 25 February 2014

lets pray for the country

MOYU - 25 February 2014

So ZRP an interested part to the deal investigastes its dealing with doubious characters? Is there any transparency?

Pablo Augustus - 25 February 2014

thats zanu pf at its best. more to come

peter matibiri - 25 February 2014

At list he has the decency of admitting he was wrong in the public and lets not forget that the President cannot handle all the issues that happens in the country, he has Ministers that act on his behalf and we cannot really expect him to investigate each and every issue he is told so ascertain that its true b4 he goes public with it. I think its the Ministers that need to do their ground work first before they go to him and tell him a story.

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J musara - 26 February 2014

Can anyone understand what the old man is saying?Is this old age or a deliberate attempt to muddy the waters?

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Jonsor - 27 February 2014

Gentleman Mugabe's lieutenants are not advising him correctly,so that trust is being betrayed

Joseph Manjoro - 1 March 2014

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