HARARE - Christopher Mushowe, the Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister, yesterday squirmed under tough probing over ex-Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere’s dubious documents that sought to justify claims that companies mining gems in Chiadzwa had each pledged $10 million towards the Marange-Zimunya community share ownership scheme.
While Kasukuwere, now Water minister, produced “documentary evidence” in an effort to debunk claims by diamond mining firms that they only pledged to contribute $1,5 million each, and not the $10 million hawked by the minister, Mushowe insisted to Parliament yesterday that the letters produced by Kasukuwere were genuine.
This was after Kasukuwere’s successor Francis Nhema suggested to Parliament last week that the letters purportedly written to the mining firms by Kasukuwere were fake.
Mushowe told the Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment parliamentary portfolio committee that he had received a letter from Kasukuwere on
August 20, 2012 requesting him to ensure that the five diamond companies in Chiadzwa paid the $10 million pledge they had made.
It, however, turned out that while the letter was dated August 2012, it was only stamped on April 4 this year, which raised suspicions.
Under cross examination from the Justice Mayor Wadyajena committee, Mushowe struggled to explain the anomaly, first saying he had requested to have a copy of the letter from the ministry because he did not have it, then making another U-turn saying he had requested a copy after he misplaced his.
This was after legislators had queried how he had missed the anomaly when it was addressed to him.
Mushowe also initially denied that he had written to diamond companies demanding that they honour their pledges before making an about turn and saying he had forgotten that he had written to Anjin.
“If indeed I wrote it, it was because the then minister of Youth had written to me asking me as provincial minister who had the responsibility to oversee strategic government programmes and projects to make sure that the pledges made were honoured,” Mushowe said after one of the letters he wrote was read out to him by Wadyajena.
“I had forgotten that I wrote the letter, this is my signature,” he said. “I cannot comment why the stamps have different dates because they did not originate from my ministry.”
Nhema told Parliament’s committee on Youth and Indigenisation last week that although he had checked all the files at the ministry “it seems I cannot locate them”.
“I have even asked officials whether the letters are there. The problem is that there is no reference, no date stamp to authenticate the letters. I have checked with many files I don’t know if they are there.
“I can’t say that they are not authentic but I have not seen any of the said letters. I tried to ask the (ministry) officials but no one knows about them,” he said.
Wadyajena grilled Mushowe on how Brian Mushowe ended up as a board member in one of the diamond miners Jinan. Mushowe said Brian was the son of his cousin and claimed it was Transport minister Obert Mpofu who had appointed him when he was Mines minister.
Mushowe is said to have pursued Jinan only to fork out the $10 million, leaving out the other diamond miners.
Zanu PF MP for Goromonzi West Biata Nyamupinga asked Mushowe what amount he was demanding from the diamond companies when he made the follow up.
Mushowe declined to answer the question, and accused the committee of engaging in a witch hunt.
“Honestly, I never expected that this committee would engage in a witch-hunt,” Mushowe said. “I only made a follow up to the company that had made President Robert Mugabe to present a dummy cheque to the community which is now asking me where the money is.”
In another contradiction, Mushowe said he had a role to play in both the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust and the diamond companies because he was Mugabe’s representative in the province, in addition to him being the legislator for the area.
“My role is dual,” he said. “As MP, I have a legislative responsibility to make sure the social circumstances are ameliorated and as provincial minister I have a very clear oversight role to play to intervene for government where necessary.
“So if I give impetus, it’s not that I am interfering, it’s a responsibility that I must take,” he said.
Mushowe buttressed Kasukuwere’s claims that the diamond companies had indeed pledged to pay the $50 million, saying they were all represented when Mugabe launched the MZCSOT in 2012.
All the five diamond miners deny ever making the $10 million pledge each.
Mushowe dismissed claims by the diamond companies that they were engaging in corporate social responsibility by relocating displaced families and providing food rations to communities among other activities, saying they were compensating villagers for the environmental damage the companies were causing.