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$10m bribe: Mugabe protected Mpofu, says businessman

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HARARE businessman Lovemore Kurotwi says he is pinning his poses on the new government to recover over $10m in cash, diamonds and mining equipment seized by home affairs minister Obert Mpofu.

The diamond miner and processor, whose interests include Core Mining and Canadile Diamond Mining Company, demanded restitution when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Mines and Energy last week.

Mpofu, who was mines minister as controversy raged over the Chiadzwa diamond fields in Manicaland, refused to speak before the same committee on claims by former president Robert Mugabe that some $15 billion in diamond revenues due to government were looted.

However, Kurotwi told the committee that relations soured between him and the then mines minister after he refused Mpofu’s demands for a $10m bribe.

The minister reportedly wanted the sweetener before he could give Kurotwi a diamond mining concession at Chiadzwa and also to facilitate a meeting between the businessman and Mugabe.

“Mpofu asked me several times to come to his office with my partners; he demanded a $10 million bribe to offer us diamond mining concession,” Kurotwi told MPs.

“He said he wanted $10 million for making it possible to give us a diamond mining concession, I refused because, as far as I was concerned, there was no need to give him that money.

“I then advised Mpofu of the idea to build a diamond value addition centre which would handle everything to do with diamond in the country.

“Mpofu then said I should give up the idea of building a diamond value addition centre until I had paid him $10 million, I again refused to pay him.

“Mpofu told me that he had introduced the investors of Mbada Diamonds to the former president Mugabe and was waiting for me to pay him the bribe of $10 million in order for him to introduce my investors to the former president, I again refused.”

Kurotwi said when Mugabe heard about the stand-off between him and the minister, the former president summoned both to a meeting.

“We met, and the meeting took almost five and half hours; in that meeting I reported Mpofu to the Mugabe,” said the businessman.

“The former president reprimanded Mpofu and clearly told him he had no right to ask for brides from investors but then defended him also in the same meeting.

“What surprised me is that soon after the meeting I got arrested.”

Kurotwi said during the consequent, Mpofu took advantage of his “vulnerability and confiscated $10.6m” of his money which was held by mines ministry parastatal, Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ).

“Mpofu took $1.4 million carats worth of diamonds which was in our Mutare vaults. He also took equipment worth $4 million which was now being used to mine diamonds by the newly formed ZCDC through Marange resources,” he said.

“After my acquittal I wrote several letters to the then president Robert Mugabe regarding reinstitution of our assets to no avail.

“I also wrote to the then minister of mines who replaced Mpofu, (Walter Chidakwa) requesting the same but again it was to no avail.

“I have now met and formally written to the new Minister of Mines Winston Chitando and I am now waiting for his action.

“I have also written to the new president, His Excellency E.D Mnangagwa, and I am waiting for him to take action.”