Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
A Gwanda-based gold mine, Vumbachikwe trading as Duration Gold Limited, has alleged that Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Fred Moyo and Gwanda Central legislator Cde Edson Gumbo are frustrating operations so that they can seize it.
Duration Gold Limited director Mr Raymond Smithwick told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment that the duo was “abusing their public office for personal gain”.
Zanu-PF MP for Gokwe-Nembudziya Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena chairs the committee.
“The principle challenges faced by the mine in fulfilling its community responsibility are economic issues of the world financial meltdown, the significant drop in commodity prices including gold, the general difficulty of doing business and especially interference from a couple of Members of Parliament who are abusing their public office for their personal gain,” said Mr Smithwick.
“The two Members of Parliament are closely aligned. The one Member of Parliament in particular is a disgruntled former employee of the mine who has been interfering in the mine’s activities and who is being sued for a substantial sum of damages by the mine due to certain activity.
“The conduct of the two MPs is undermining the survival of the mine in these difficult times, jeopardising the jobs, safety and well-being of Vumbachikwe’s 1 000 employees, their families and the Vumbachikwe village community as well as the life of mine plan to transform the mine into something much larger, creating many more jobs and funding the Vumbachikwe Community Trust programmes.”
However, MPs demanded that Mr Smithwick substantiate his claims by stating how the duo abused their office. Mr Smithwick said Cde Gumbo, who is a former employee of the company falsely reported to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development in Bulawayo that the manner in which the firm was extracting gold was dangerous.
He said the ministry then ordered them to stop mining the crown pallets resulting in them mining low grade gold only.
“How are the MPs interfering for their personal gain, abusing their office because you said the MPs are abusing their public office for their personal?” asked Cde Wadyajena. “You also went on to say the MPs are undermining the survival of the mine in these difficult times. It is only fair you tell us exactly what they are doing.”
Responded Mr Smithwick: “By affecting the income of the mine, that is affecting the mine when it is struggling to make profit. If you are producing gold from a lower grade ore you are producing less gold and therefore there is less revenue. This is directly affecting the mine.”
But Zanu-PF MP for Goromonzi West Cde Beatrice Nyamupinga retorted: “I want to remind him that we want to know exactly because this is damaging someone’s personal integrity and now we don’t hear any personal gains. We want to know what the person gained that undermined the production and profitability of the mine.”
Responded Mr Smithwick: “There may be a misunderstanding of what was being said. The personal gain is not current. It is a belief that the intention is to somehow try to gain possession of the mine.
“There was a meeting on the 4th of August last year and during that meeting, Edson Gumbo, the MP entered the office and the two of them communicated which gave the impression that they were closely aligned.”
But another Zanu-PF MP for Hurungwe West, Cde Keith Guzah said it was important for Mr Smithwick to substantiate his claims with specific details.
“I think you are being economic with the truth. Your letter is very clear and specific and alleges clearly that these two MPs and one of them being a deputy minister engaged themselves in an unlawful act. That’s what you are saying, that they interfered for personal gain. May you kindly explain to this esteemed committee how they gained anything?” said Cde Guzah.
Zanu-PF MP for Vungu Cde Josphat Madubeko told Mr Smithwick that he was protected by the rules of Parliament, as such he was free to divulge the information that he had about the alleged interests of the two. Cde Wadyajena then advised Mr Smithwick that if he misled the committee he would be liable to contempt of Parliament.
“I don’t have at the moment any specific information regarding the deputy minister,” said Mr Smithwick. “All this we are surmising on the basis of the two of them being closely aligned.
Mr Smithwick’s request to have the media gagged from disclosing shareholders hit a snag as Cde Wadyajena with the support of legislators ruled that they should disclose the names since it was of national interest.