River Ranch: Solomons mine

mujuruRiver Ranch is known colloquially as Mujurus mine. There But while Mujurus ownership may be common knowledge, many other things about River Ranch remain in the shadows. (Pictured: Solomon Mujuru)

The reason? The mine goes to the very heart of Mujurus struggle for control of Zanu (PF) and allegations it is being used to launder some of the plunder he and his allies secured in DRC.

There is even paperwork to prove Mujurus ownership which, in the tussle for control of Zimbabwean diamonds, is a rarity. The corporate ownership and shareholder structure of Mbada and Canadile, by comparison, remain largely cloaked in mystery despite the public scrutiny and best efforts of Zimbabwes Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Energy.

In April 2004 Mujuru controversially grabbed the mine with the help of Adel Abdul Rahman al Aujan, a millionaire Saudi real estate developer who also owns luxury beach resorts and safari camps in eastern and Southern Africa that operate under the name Rani Resorts.

At the time, River Ranch Mine was owned and managed by Bubye Minerals, which took possession of the once insolvent mine in September 1998. The proprietors

of Bubye Minerals are Adele and Michael Farquhar, who managed to turn things around so the mine was producing an average of 30,000 carats per month.

The Farquhars misfortune began after they gave Aujan a 30 per cent stake in the company in 2002 after they ran into some financial difficulties caused by a cyclone.

By 2004, the two parties had a falling out, and Aujan abruptly called in his loans.

Shortly afterwards, he convened a meeting at the exclusiveMeikles Hotel in Harare, unilaterally reconstituted thecompany as River Ranch Limited and appointed Mujuru and Trivanhu Mudariki, another senior Zanu politician, as directors. Days later the Farquhars were escorted off the property by police at gunpoint.

The case has been before the courts ever since, with several legal judgments upholding the Farquhars legal rights. Despite this, River Ranch Limited continues to occupy and mine despite a lack of clear title.

River Ranch is as illustrative of Mujurus disdain for the rule of law, as his abilities to flex his political muscle to get his way.

On several occasions he has secured interventions very few other Zimbabweans could.

The first came in November 2005, when then Minister of Mines Amos Midzi issued a letter correcting an administrative error in a bid to overturn a court decision that had upheld legal title to the Farquhars.

This effort ultimately failed, but it showed the ease with which Mujuru could give marching orders to a ministers office.

Other interventions were more successful. In Zimbabwe it is the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, a parastatal within the Ministry of Mines, which issues

Kimberley Process certificates needed for the legal export of rough diamonds.

Despite controlling the mine, Mujuru was initially prevented from legally selling any diamonds, thanks to an injunction won by the Farquhars legal team.

Undeterred, Mujuru repeatedly pressured Priscilla Mupfunira, the chairwoman of the MMCZ, to issue the certificates anyway. She refused.

Mujuru turned to the Central Committee, the second most powerful Zanu organ, whose main duties include dispensing patronage. The Committee is firmly controlled by Mujurus wife, Joice, and includes Mudariki among its members.

In late 2008, Mupfunira and most of the MMCZ board were abruptly replaced. (Retired Lt-Col) Nelly Abu Basutu assumed the top job. She came with impeccable connections: her husband is Air Vice-Marshal Titus Abu Basutu, the deputy to Air Force Chief Perence Shiri.

Mujuru has also controversially obtained technical assistance after the takeover from the African Management Service Company, a joint entity managed by the United Nations Development Programme and the World Banks International Finance Corporation.

There are also persistent questions surrounding the companys official production numbers. Although there is no definitive proof Mujuru is laundering Congolese diamonds, RRLs numbers dont tally.

Consider the following: River Ranch Limited did not publicly declare its production from 2004 to 2008. The first public declaration was made by Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who stated that the annual return for RRL for 2009 was 75,000 carats exactly 25 per cent of the potential annual yield.

RRL sold its first diamonds in June 2007, amounting to almost 50,000 carats, despite statements unveiled by Biti that showed that they had been mining continuously from November 2005 to May 2007, some 16 months.

RRL should also have declared and marketed another 600,000 carats between May 2007 and December 2009.

No rational explanation has ever been forthcoming as to why it did not.

One reason could be because River Ranch, as with Marange, has a direct connection to internecine squabbles that broke out within Zanu in 2007.

At the time, it appeared Mugabe would not contest the 2008 election and the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions set about securing support for their respective presidential bids.

Among some key western countries, the Mujurus were perceived to be the acceptable face of Zanu, and a more realistic bet than the MDC, who was facing its own internal divisions at the time.

The thinking was to create an entity from within Zanu that was financially able to assume power smoothly and restore relations with the west.

Mnangagwa and the securocrats sponsored a counter-revolt to destabilise the party -which Mujuru largely controlled with funds from Marange.

Much of ACRs problems stem from the fact that Solomon Mujuru is a shareholder. ACR contends that his share is no bigger than three per cent, worth a monetary value of 240,000. No-one believes that.

There is nothing about Solomon Mujuru that is small-time, says one industry insider. He is not the kind of guy who buys shares and sits back waiting for the investor newsletter.

It is often erroneously assumed that the only fight for power in Zimbabwe is between the two parties, Zanu (PF) and the MDC. In reality, the more explosive turf war is within Zanu itself.

River Ranch affords Mujuru unfettered access to his own diamond resource one that he has protected with ruthlessness.

Those who have borne the brunt of Mujurus persecution are the Farquhars and their immediate supporters. The couple has repeatedly been singled out for special harassment, including frequent imprisonments, house break-ins and death threats, in an attempt to force them to give up the mine.

The intimidation campaign took a very personal and tragic turn in February 2010, when Adeles brother, Richard Amyot, and his wife, Tecla, were murdered.

Police ruled it a murder-suicide but forensics done by the family disputed that finding. Tecla was shot four times, including once from close range at the back of her head while she was lying on the floor. Richard was found slumped in a door frame as though running from the room. He, too, was shot in the head, but from medium range. No gunpowder residue was found either on his hands or at the bullets entry point.

Despite all this, the Kimberley Process has never seen fit to interview the Farquhars.

River Ranch is not the only kimberlite mine operating under the radar of the KP. There is Gonos mine, near Gweru in Midlands, named after Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono. It is comprised of two sites, the revenues from which are untraced. Lesser known mines have also come on-line near Shangani, again in Midlands; and another RRL-owned mine in Mwenezi, in Masvingo


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