By Anna Chibamu
MINES and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando was Monday grilled by parliament’s Mines committee over questionable relations with some stakeholders at the troubled Hwange Colliery as he went all out to defend his controversial suspension of the mine board while placing the struggling entity under judiciary reconstruction.
Last week, Chitando dissolved the Hwange Colliery Board and immediately hired Bekithemba Moyo as an administrator to over-see the running of a mine which recorded a net loss of $23 million in June 2018.
Some committee members alleged that the move to put the mine under reconstruction was a ploy by Chitando to block a forensic audit which had been ordered by government.
Responding to questions by the members of the committee, Chitando defended his decision to put the mine under reconstruction.
He said the entity had become insolvent and needed a strategy to come back to its feet.
“The biggest problem the mine had is that it has been making a loss in the past five years, its revenue being less than its cost of inputs it was using to produce.
“This led to government’s decision to put it under reconstruction,” he said.
Chitando denied having relations with some managers at the mine, in particular, one Shepherd Tundiya whom he referred to as “just a stakeholder” and as a resident of the mining town having met him once in June.
Former director Thomas Makore is also alleged to have been receiving payments even after leaving the mine.
“I have had meetings with different stakeholders on a daily basis. I have met Tundiya once in June when women at the mine were demonstrating.
“I was not aware that Mr Tundiya was using my name. In my office comes many stakeholders. I listen to all stakeholders and l let them pour out their hearts.
“We do not interrupt them when they speak. It is important to engage stakeholders depending on the circumstances; I refer and do not order stakeholders to give orders.
“Tundiya showed an interest as a stakeholder in the meeting and said a lot of things. He was talking about the analysis of the problems at the mine. The mine board later informed me that he was giving orders and instructions. I ordered them not to get instructions from him,” Chitando said.
Chitando added, “On 17 September, the board chair Juliana Muswe told me she had a problem with Tundiya. I warned her not to entertain him. If Tundiya wants to see you, do not see him, if he has to see you, I have to be there at least. Tell him you will only meet him in my presence.
“As far as I am concerned, I have only known him whilst in the office. I have not known him outside the office. My understanding was that he was only a resident of Hwange. He had no mandate to deal with anyone at the mine.”
Chitando is former board chair of Hwange Colliery.