SMM saga: Chinamasa to be investigated

Calls by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions for an official investigation into the activities of justice minister Patrick Chinamasa at Shabanie Mashaba Mines (SMM Holdings) have won parliamentary approval.

Patrick Chinamasa
Patrick Chinamasa

Chairman of parliament's portfolio committee on mines and energy, Edward Chindori Chininga said last week Chinamasa had clearly gone beyond his mandate and had probably abused the law to fix SMM owner Mutumwa Mawere, now exiled in South Africa.

The legislators also want the administrator appointed by Chinamasa, Arafas Gwaradzimba, to be probed for running the company into the ground under the pretext of saving it from collapse. SMM was closed in September last year after going for months without electricity, which caused the mine to be flooded, causing millions of dollars worth of damage to underground equipment. Gwaradzimba was accused by workers of receiving funds from asbestos sales but not paying bills, including wages and utilities.

Workers also alleged mismanagement by the managing director appointed by Chinamasa, Oliver Mutasa, the son of Zanu (PF) politburo member Didymus Mutasa, who engineered Mawere's downfall when he was state security minister in 2004.

The workers accuse Chinamasa of continuing with unauthorized and undocumented sales of asbestos reserves with Zanu (PF) pocketing the proceeds.

In an unusual move, Chindori Chininga called for the involvement of other government leaders to ensure a solution was found. The government wanted to run the mines under the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, buoyed recently by diamond revenues, but Mawere moved to block the move in the courts, hence the call for a political solution by parliamentarians.

The government took over the mines in 2004, accusing Mawere of externalizing foreign currency. Mawere, who had been 'specified' by Chinamasa to prevent him from conducting business in Zimbabwe was cleared by the courts last year, leaving Chinamasa with no basis to continue clinging to the mines.

Proposals to recapitalize the mines were presented to parliament by Mawere last year but were rejected by Chinamasa, who has since invited Chinese investors to take over the mining empire.

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