Pay back time for uncle Bob

BY GIFT PHIRI
HARARE - The Zanu (PF) government is finalizing a complex deal with the newly sworn-in Democratic Republic of Congo leader Joseph Kabila that will rake in profits worth US$300 million and involves the biggest ever logging operation in the precious tropical rainforests of the DRC.

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Diplomatic sources said the deal, involving the Kabila family, President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean army generals and the Kinshasa government is widely seen as a hurried effort by Harare to recoup at least part of the costs of its military adventure in the late 90s.
Zimbabweans will see little of the profits, however, as diplomatic sources said the revenues were likely to be shared by a small clique of senior generals and politicians.
Kabila (junior) was confirmed as the first democratically elected DRC president by universal direct suffrage on November 27 last year after a UN-run presidential election. The cash-strapped Zanu (PF) government has rushed to the new leader demanding that he honours the pledge by his late father.
According to documents seen by The Zimbabwean, the late Laurent Kabila promised Mugabe to pay back for Zimbabwe’s military assistance during the late 90s insurgency with rights to log the forests in 33 million hectares, an area of about 15 percent of the Congo, Africa’s third largest country.
Sources told The Zimbabwean that Mugabe and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, who were both in Malaysia on holiday recently, managed to secure financiers for the deal, including Malaysian banks and logging companies from France, Malaysia and Lebanon.
Sources said the deal would be run by Cosleg – a combination of Comiex Congo and Osleg – the commercial arm of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces whose full name is Operation Sovereign Legitimacy.
Osleg’s directors are listed as Retired General Vitalis Zvinavashe; Job Whabira, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence; Onesimo Moyo, the director of the Minerals Marketing Corporation; and Isiah Ruzengwe, the general manager of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.
Most of the timber, some of which would have to be transported by rivers because of the poor road network in the DRC, would be exported via Harare and Durban to markets in south East Asia and some European destinations such as France.
“This deal is simply pay back time to Uncle Bob,” said senior diplomat from a Western capital.

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