HARARE - Transport minister Obert Mpofu was yesterday forced by top Harare lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa to reveal his assets and wealth in court in the on-going trial of Core Mining and Minerals (Private) Limited director, Lovemore Kurotwi.
Mpofu dismissed the widely held assertion that he made money through underhand diamond deals when he was still the minister of Mines.
Speculation has been rife that Mpofu acquired buildings, land, farms and massive houses due to his involvement in diamond dealings, including allegedly receiving bribes from dealers.
Mpofu is the State’s last witness in the trial, in which Kurotwi is being accused of prejudicing government of $2 billion.
He is jointly charged with former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) boss Dominic Mubaiwa.
During cross examination, Mtetwa, who is representing Kurotwi, demanded that Mpofu narrate his employment history and the assets that he acquired over the years.
Mtetwa said the line of questioning was prompted by Mpofu’s denial that he demanded a $10 million bribe from Kurotwi.
While giving evidence, Mpofu told the court that he was an established businessman and could not even ask for a bottle of water from Kurotwi.
Mpofu alleged Mtetwa was becoming personal by asking about his employment history and the assets that he acquired.
He claimed that he received a “golden handshake” in the late 1980s, and used the proceeds to buy properties.
He said he had worked for government since independence, before joining Tregers as its managing director between 1985 and 1989.
Mpofu told the court that after being given the golden handshake, he started acquiring properties from the proceeds and had never looked back since then.
He said he later set up a bureau de change in the 1990s, claiming it was the biggest in the country.
He said the bureau de change was later sold to CFX, adding that he went on to procure buildings in Harare.
After being further queried by Mtetwa on the type of buildings that he owns in Harare, Mpofu said he has a house in Greystone Park and another in Borrowdale Brook.
In Bulawayo, he said his company owns York House and another along Main Street, adding that he has a warehouse in Victoria Falls and houses for his employees.
Asked to comment on the combined value of his assets, Mpofu said he would not know, adding that he is also an accomplished farmer.
“I am one of the biggest cattle ranchers in the country,” Mpofu said.
Mtetwa further probed Mpofu over $140 million diamond stock and $3, 4 million dividends meant for Core Mining, which went missing.
During cross examination, Mpofu said Mtetwa was being malicious and was using him to settle personal scores.
“You just have an axe to grind with other people but don’t use me. I feel I am just being abused,” Mpofu said.
The allegations against Kurotwi and Mubaiwa arose following a botched investment by a South African diamond firm, Benn Steinmeitz Group Resources (BSGR), into a diamond mining project in Marange diamond fields.
ZMDC, which owns Marange Resources and Kurotwi’s Core Mining, went into a joint venture deal to extract diamonds in Marange, forming the now defunct Canadile Miners.
The State claims Kurotwi misrepresented to the ministry of Mines and ZMDC that Core Mining was a special purpose vehicle of BSGR, which was supposed to be the guarantor in a joint venture agreement between the parties.