ZPS officers eye gold mine

Several senior Zimbabwe Prison Service officials have allegedly set their sights on Connemara Gold Mine in the Midlands.

The mine is 30km north of Gweru, next to Connemara Open Prison on a farm owned by the ZPS. In recent years, the gold mine has faced serious viability challenges, prompting ZPS to search for a business partner.

A source privy to the shady deal told The Zimbabwean that ZPS had invited a foreign-owned firm to help revive operations at the gold mine. Under the partnership, ZPS is supposed to get 51 percent shareholding as stipulated under Zimbabwe’s indigenization law.

A ZPS front

However, the source said that a coterie of senior commissioners with influence in a ZPS-owned company, Pamberi/Xobikani, were conniving to grab the 51 percent ownership of the mine by forking out their personal finances.

“Pamberi is owned by ZPS but the truth is that it is under the control and influence of powerful figures here who have benefited from a lot of fraudulent deals conducted by the company,” said the source who declined to be named for security reasons.

The source identified Deputy Commissioner Agrey Machingauta as the leader of the group of senior officials. However, Machingauta, when contacted for a comment, refuted the allegation.

“No, I couldn’t be involved. That is not my area as I only do administration and my work involves looking after the welfare of prisoners. I don’t know anything about the operations of Xobikani,” he said.

He then referred further questions to Deputy Commissioner Moyo who declined to comment.

ZPS not benefitting

Pamberi/Xobikani firm was established in 2007.

“Although they would like to claim the company (Pamberi/Xobikani) is owned by ZPS, the truth is that Prison Services is not benefiting from that company,” the source added.

ZPS spokesperson, Superintendent Elizabeth Banda, confirmed they were looking for a partner to help revive operations at Connemara Gold Mine but said

she was not aware of any clandestine arrangement by senior officials to snatch the 51 percent shareholding.

“I am not aware of any move by anyone to snatch the shares. What I know is that we are looking for an investment partner and as soon as we get one, we will let you know,” said Banda.

Mine in trouble

She acknowledged that Connemara mine was facing viability constraints but could not be drawn into disclosing whether the ZPS was looking for local or foreign investment partners.

Contrary to Banda’s sentiments, the source said: “Some of the senior commissioners involved in the deal have paid as much as $38 000 which they said is to help revive operations at Connemara and all this is being done using the Xobikani name,” said the source.

The source added that attempts to thwart the clandestine arrangement had resulted in victimization of some officers at ZPS.

“One officer was dismissed by word of mouth and his service vehicle has been parked for almost five months now,” added the source.

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