JOHANNESBURG – What started out as a legal fight for the return of businesses confiscated by the state has become an intriguing expos of how Former President Robert Mugabe runs the nation. Court papers in the dispute between Shabanie Mashaba Mine (SMM Holdings) and Minister Patrick Chinamasa revealed Mugabe’s hidden hand meddling in judicial matters.
SMM was taken over by the government ostensibly for owing huge amounts to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and other lenders, and on suspicion that it spirited foreign currency earnings abroad.
Both allegations have yet to be proved. But what is becoming clear is that exiled Zimbabwean businessman, Mutumwa Mawere, a director of SMM who now lives in South Africa was a victim of bad politics and greed.
At one stage, Mutumwa Mawere sought the help of former South African president Thabo Mbeki in his continuing battle to wrest the company back from the states grip.
Mutumwa Mawere said his meeting on May 10 with Mugabe was a follow-up to discussions we had the previous day at President [Jacob] Zumas inauguration.
The president [Mugabe] requested me to brief him about the details and circumstances leading to the reconstruction of SMM Holdings Private Limited and related companies, as well as my specification.
During its reconstruction, Shabanie Mashaba Mine (SMM) was placed in administration and Mawere was branded a specified individual: someone barred from doing business in Zimbabwe.
Court records indicate that the Justice Minister was opposed to Maweres attempts to settle out of court.
It was Mugabes favourite banker Gideon Gono, the controversial former governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe who let the cat out of the bag.
In his affidavit, Mutumwa Mawere reproduces text messages from Gonos Blackberry phone, which clearly indicate that Mugabe was being kept informed of all developments in the case.
Gono told Mawere that Mugabe was not to blame for his predicament, but other senior government officials including Chinamasa were.
A SMS message from Gono read: Im very clear now I wasnt [aware], neither was the prez [Mugabe], of these conflicts of interests. Also, perusal of extra documents reveals that the state was on shaky ground from word go. We never complained as RBZ that SMM has failed to pay! Besides RBZ never lend to Shabanie Mashaba Mine (SMM) but to banks hahaha! Dont worry, it has been a long walk. You can count me on side.
Gono sums up the chicanery aptly in a follow-up text in which he says: It is evident that the bylaw is subordinate to the rule of law. – South African times
Originally published in 2009.