'Chihuri looted diamonds worth millions of dollars'

HARARE - Former police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri allegedly seized a vault containing diamonds worth millions of dollars belonging to a company that was in partnership with the cops before he forcibly took its claim in the gem rich Chiadzwa fields, Parliament heard yesterday.

Chihuri, who had been invited to give evidence and explain how the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) came to partner Gye Nyame, was again conspicuous by his absence from the parliamentary hearing.

The committee on Mines and Energy chaired by feisty independent MP for Norton, Temba Mliswa, was told the vault was never recovered.

Parliament was also told of how Chihuri allegedly had Ghanaian investors who had 30 percent stake in Gye Nyame evicted from the claims by heavily armed police officers and forcibly deported back to their country despite having invested heavily in the business.

Chihuri, the committee was further told, had ZRP shareholding in the mine verbally inflated from five percent to 20 percent in just one week.

All this was happening without the knowledge of his fellow senior police officers and the ministry of Home Affairs, the committee was told.

Gye Nyame project manager Itai Munyeza said Chihuri dispatched eight armed police officers to his house in Harare, who force-marched him to the company’s offices before they forced him to hand over the key to the  diamond vault.

“Armed police officers led by one superintendent Dube came to my home and found that I had gone to collect my children from school.

“They then called me to say they were waiting for me. Upon my arrival, they demanded the key to the diamond vault and I refused to surrender the key.

“I was then detained for a few hours and I later handed them the key after realising that they were up to something nasty. They clearly said they were acting on Chihuri’s orders.

“We then wrote to the ministers of Mines and Home Affairs as well as to the President’s Office informing them that we were no longer in control. We left the police alone. As to what happened to the diamonds, only God knows,” Munyenza told the Mliswa-led committee.

“ZRP initially had five percent shareholding, but it was verbally increased to 10 percent and then to 20 percent within a space of a week.

“The police always felt the concession was theirs and yet they were our partners. We initially fought this viciously as we thought we were being set to fail. We had severe overheads even before we started operations in March 2013.

“By that time, some of the Ghanaians had already left and by June of the year, they had all been expelled,” Munyeza added.

Former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZDMC) board chairperson Goodwills Masimirembwa said that he was aware the ZRP had indeed forcibly taken over the diamond vault and the claims.

“The police kept one key to the vault and Mr Munyeza kept another key but he was forced to surrender it. He surrendered the key and what happened to those diamonds, we don’t know,” he said.

Home Affairs permanent secretary Melusi Machiya said he was kept in the dark about the existence of the mine against standard government practice.

“As a ministry, we were never directly involved. We never knew that there was a concession which was granted to police. They never declared any such thing but normally, when they get something, they declare for accounting purposes, even if it is very small and so an investment of this magnitude should have been declared but it wasn’t,” he said.

Former Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo also said he was never told of the mine when he took over office.

“I wasn’t briefed about this mining entity during my time at the ministry,” said Chombo.

Vice President Kembo Mohadi, who was the minister of Home Affairs at the time the concession was granted to police in 2012, did not attend the hearing as he had commitments elsewhere.

Current minister of Home Affairs Obert Mpofu — who was the minister of Mines at the time — did not give evidence as he had written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda saying he was uncomfortable to do so as long as Mliswa was chairing the hearing.

The mining of diamonds in Marange have been shrouded with controversy and accusations of plunder.

In 2016, former president Robert Mugabe made startling claims that his government could not account for a jaw-dropping $15 billion that was allegedly lost through nefarious activities by players involved in the extraction of the gems in Chiadzwa.

The fields in Marange are considered to be one of the world’s biggest deposits of diamonds.

While the gems were discovered decades ago, a diamond rush only ensued in 2006, resulting in Mugabe’s government deploying the military to restore order.

At the height of the mining of diamonds there, Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Kusena and Gye Nyame (which had police) were some of the companies which were involved in the extraction of the gems in conjunction with the ZMDC.

The mining companies’ licences were not renewed after Mugabe made his startling claim.

And in a controversial move, the government subsequently replaced the mining companies with the State-owned Zimbabwe Diamond Consolidated Company, which now exclusively carries out all the mining in the area.

In 2012, long before Mugabe alleged that the $15 billion had been spirited away, a watchdog group campaigning against “blood” diamonds had also released a damning report in which it alleged that more than $2 billion worth of diamonds had been stolen from the Marange fields.

It also claimed that Mugabe’s inner circle, together with some international dealers and a large network of criminals had connived in “the biggest single plunder of diamonds the world has seen since Cecil Rhodes”.

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