Ousted former president Robert Mugabe risks going to jail for continuing to ignore directives by Parliament to give evidence on the disappearance of $15 billion diamond revenue, with the august body yesterday issuing him with a final ultimatum failure of which he will face the consequences.
Mugabe was yesterday expected to appear before the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines and Energy to explain the missing $15 billion diamond revenue from the gem-rich Chiadzwa fields.
But the 94-year-old former Zanu PF and Zimbabwe leader, for the second time, did not pitch up at Parliament, prompting the Mines and Energy committee — led by feisty Norton Independent MP Temba Mliswa — to issue a final order for his appearance, which could pave way for sanctions, in the event he doesn’t come.
Addressing journalists after waiting for the former head of State for over an hour, Mliswa said they will issue a final ultimatum in which Mugabe would be warned of
the consequences for failing to heed the call to appear before Parliament.
“In view of the time, we have resolved that we will write to him again to appear before the committee on June 11 at 2pm.
“If we do not get co-operation from him as Parliament we have powers to take action, but we would not want to get to that. Our expectation is that he will attend.
“We still have respect for him as a former head of State but like I said, we are going to remind him that Parliament will be forced to summon him and the consequences of not attending are there,” Mliswa told journalists.
Mliswa said Parliament had many tools at its disposal including invoking sanctions that would result in jail as he gave the clearest indication that his committee would go that route if Mugabe continues to play hardball.
“Remember what happened to the late (former MDC treasurer-general) Roy Bennet the other time… but we would not want to go that far because it is something we regret to do,” added Mliswa.
Bennett, the late former MDC treasurer-general, was slapped with a nine-month jail term in 2004 after he floored Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa in a scuffle during debate in Parliament on the land reform programme.
Chinamasa said Bennett’s ancestors were “thieves” who had stolen land as settlers, to spark a brawl which ended with the then Justice minister on the floor.
Mugabe has, twice, failed to appear before the Mliswa-led committee and in both instances, he has not given reasons for his no shows.
The deposed former guerilla leader faces being punished according to the Act that empowers committees of Parliament to summon any person to appear before them and produce any documents required.
The Act also lists offences such as prevarication during questioning, presenting false information, tampering with, threatening or unduly influencing any person with regards to the evidence, and publishing defamatory statements about a member as offences.
If Mugabe does not appear again, then he would be in contempt of Parliament.
In 2016, 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 activities there, Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Anjin Investments, Diamond Mining Company, Kusena and Gye Nyame were some of the companies which were involved in the extraction of the gems in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (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”.
“Marange’s potential has been overshadowed by violence, smuggling, corruption and most of all, lost opportunity.
“The scale of illegality is mind-blowing” and has spread to compromise most of the diamond markets of the world,” Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) alleged in its report that was titled: Reap What You Sow — Greed and Corruption in Zimbabwe’s Marange Diamond Fields.
Meanwhile, Mliswa yesterday said his committee was now waiting for National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda to make a ruling on the decision by Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu to refuse to testify before it.
“We have produced our report pertaining to minister Mpofu and we are now waiting for a ruling on the report by the National Assembly Speaker so we are still seized with the matter,” Mliswa said.
In February, there was drama in Parliament when Mpofu — who is a former Mines minister — lost his cool when he clashed with Mliswa over the missing $15 billion diamond revenue.
The burly Zanu PF secretary for administration later vowed never to appear before the Mines and Energy committee to answer any questions relating to the missing funds as long as Mliswa was presiding over the emotive issue — also suggesting damagingly that the garrulous Norton legislator had at some point sought a bribe from him.
Mpofu’s tantrum sparked anger among the gathered MPs who called for him to be slapped with stiff sanctions which he said, however, would have little effect on him — as he had been in Parliament for more than three decades, and thus knew how to deal with the august House’s procedures.