HARARE - A High Court judge has lashed the government, saying it should not have unilaterally taken over diamond claims at Chiadzwa, as this amounted to the State taking the law into its own hands.
The ruling by Justice Joseph Mafusire yesterday came after Mbada Diamonds’ foreign shareholder, Grandwell Holdings, challenged the government’s recent directive to stop mining companies in Marange from continuing with their operations.
Mafusire said in his view, government’s actions were a classical act of “spoliation” (the unauthorised alteration or destruction of a legal document, such as a contract or will).
“If the respondents suddenly discovered that the special grants had expired and wanted to terminate the marriage, they were obliged to follow the law. They were not entitled to take the law into their own hands and cause the forcible closure of the mine,” he said.
In the application, Grandwell cited Mines minister Walter Chidakwa, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), Marange Resources (Marange), Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC), Mbada and police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri as respondents.
Mafusire said further that the government’s actions were difficult to understand.
“It seemed true that some of the special grants had indeed expired in 2010 and others in 2013. Yet, Mbada had remained mining. For action only to be taken as late as February 2016 seemed to lend credence to the complaint by Grandwell that the government was punishing the foreign investors for seemingly dragging their feet, or refusing to comply with the consolidation scheme,” he said.
He added that a letter written by Mines ministry permanent secretary, Francis Gudyanga, on February 22, 2016, suggested that there was a sudden discovery of the fact that the special grants had expired.
“The government had had all the time to act lawfully. So, why the rush? Why the sudden emergency? Therefore, in my finding, an act of spoliation was committed by the respondents on Mbada,” Mafusire ruled.
He also said in the light of the fact that the special mining grants had expired, it was improper for him to give an order allowing Mbada to continue mining, without first regularising its operations in terms of the law.
However, he said, Mbada’s security officers could remain at the mining site to secure its diamonds and equipment until the finalisation of the matter.
Once the special grants had been regularised, the government would be barred from interfering with Mbada’s mining operations.
“The first, second, fourth and sixth respondents (Chidakwa, ZMDC, ZCDC and Chihuri) are hereby interdicted from inducing, or forcing, or in any manner procuring, a breach of the third respondent’s (Marange) contractual relationships with the applicant (Grandwell) and the fifth respondent.
“Furthermore, the first and fourth respondents (Chidakwa and ZCDC) are hereby interdicted from inducing, or forcing, or in any manner procuring, a breach of the contractual relationships between the applicant and the fifth respondent on the one hand and the second and third respondents on the other,” he added.