$15 BILLION DIAMOND INQUIRY OPENS CAN OF WORMS AS MORE BIGWIGS ARE NAMED
The current investigation on the missing $15 billion diamond revenue by the Temba Mliswa- led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy has revealed serious corruption by top government bigwigs, during former President Robert Mugabe’s leadership and that they were politically protected.
However, the refusal of one of the bigwigs, Obert Mpofu, who was Mines minister when most of the corruption happened in Chiadzwa, to respond to any questions by the committee, has seriously stalled the investigation by Parliament.
What was more upsetting was that inasmuch as Mliswa and most of the MPs in the Mines committee seemed to be seriously absorbed in ensuring that the country is rid of corrupt practices in the mining sector, some MPs in the committee were bent on defending party interests ahead of the people of Zimbabwe, who are affected by massive corruption resulting in non-performing public institutions like the health sector.
When Mpofu appeared before the Mines Committee in February to be grilled over diamond mining in Chiadzwa resulting in the loss of the $15 billion revenue, he became evasive; rubbished the committee, and even swore that he will never be questioned by the committee for as long as Mliswa chaired the committee.
It was not clear whether Mpofu used Mliswa’s excuse to ensure that he never gives oral evidence before Parliament, but what was most painful was watching MPs like Masango Matambanadzo (Kwekwe Central Zanu PF) contradicting other members of the committee in defence of Mpofu.
When Mpofu lost his temper and continued saying that he will not respond to any questions from the committee, Matambanadzo quipped in favour of Mpofu, “Leave the minister alone, he is our minister,” a situation that further weakened the committee’s position.
The situation resulted in chaos, as Matambanadzo, with the assistance of Chegutu West MP Dextor Nduna, seemed to be defending their party colleague Mpofu, while other MPs wanted answers from him. Noticing that MPs were now shouting at each other, Mliswa had to adjourn the inquiry and invited Mpofu to come back in the afternoon, which he arrogantly never did.
Zimbabweans need answers, and it is unfair for MPs to take the side of a witness during committee proceedings. It is against Parliament Standing Rules and Orders.
Section 62 of the Parliament Standing Orders touches on the rules to be observed by a legislator while speaking to a question, and stipulates that MPs cannot disrupt proceedings in Parliament.
It states that “no member (MP) shall, while speaking to a question use his or her right of speech for the purpose of obstructing the proceedings of the House …”
The disruptions by Matambanadzo, therefore, not only stalled the proceedings, but they denied those people in Kwekwe Central that voted for Matambanadzo a chance to be represented by him in terms of his oversight role to ensure the Executive are put into account.
Asked what action the committee will take on such MPs, who digress from the opinions of the rest of the committee members in order to save the face of their party members, Mliswa said the committee was in the process of preparing a report about Mpofu’s behaviour and that of the MP who had caused chaos.
“The report is going to deal with the issue of MPs within the committee that are taking a partisan stance and defending the witness, instead of working together with the committee,” Mliswa said.
Anti-corruption advocate and Information Development Trust national co-ordinator, Tawanda Majoni, said the investigation into the missing $15 billion diamond revenue by the committee was very important, as most of these high profile figures like Mpofu were even mentioned in the 2012 Global Witness report on Marange diamonds and by the 2013 Edward Chindori Chininga-led Mines and Energy Portfolio Committee report.
“The 2012 Global Witness report, for instance, provided a narrative of how the security sector was actively involved in the extraction and underworld sale of diamonds to fund overt missions, projects and operations meant to keep the Zanu PF government in power. To date, no-one from government has come out to refute the findings by the group.
Other reports, again unrefuted, went as far as to claim that the army, central intelligence and police were allocated separate diamond mining rights in the gem fields,” Majoni said.
Chindori Chininga subsequently died in a mysterious accident soon after releasing the damning 2013 report.
It was, therefore, imperative for MPs in this case to speak with one voice, when Mpofu appeared before the committee in order to ensure he explained what exactly transpired in Chiadzwa during his time as Mines minister.
On its website, the Parliament of Zimbabwe states that the new Constitution gives prominence to the fact that all institutions and agencies of the State and government are accountable to Parliament.
“Even the Presidency as a State institution is not exempt from accountability to Parliament,” the statement reads.
This is supported by section 107 of the Constitution, which affirms that “every vice-president, minister and deputy minister must attend parliamentary committees in order to answer questions concerning matters for which he or she is collectively and individually responsible.”
All this is meant to compel the executive to avail themselves before Parliament to enhance accountability and transparency. The Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act also provide for the summoning of any person, except the sitting President to appear before committees to give oral evidence.
It is still not clear on what basis Mpofu refused to take questions from MPs from the Mines and Energy Committee.
However, apart from this unfortunate incident, it is very rare for MPs sitting in a committee meeting and grilling members of the executive to take a partisan stance.
Recently, MPs from the Lands Committee led by Justice Wadyajena managed to speak with one voice when Arda board chairperson, Basil Nyabadza, and Arda chief executive officer, Willard Mbona, appeared before the committee and refused to disclose contract documents that they signed or entered into with different organisations spearheading different farming projects in the country.
Mbona became so evasive to the extent that he told MPs that Arda had signed confidentiality clauses with these organisations, adding he had copied a letter pertaining to Parliament’s requests to avail the documents to Zanu PF.
All MPs from the committee, including those from Zanu PF took turns to stand up and express their displeasure on the behaviour of the Arda board. They did not take partisan stances.
This shows that speaking with one voice by MPs from different political parties, including the ruling party helps to enhance accountability by government institutions in the use of public funds.