Chairman of diamond-mining company Gye Nyame Resources (GNR) at the centre of a $6 million scandal Manson Mnaba yesterday revealed that Ghanaian investor William Ato Essien brought $5 million cash into the country, which the financier claimed he gave to former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) board chairman Godwills Masimirembwa.
In an exclusive interview, Mnaba, who is a Zimbabwean land developer, said Essien showed him a declaration receipt showing that the Ghanaian had entered the country with cash worth $5 million.
The GNR is a joint venture between ZMDC and Bill Minerals which is owned by Essien. The company was established in 2011 when the initial survey and pegging of Block G concession in Marange resources was completed.
Mnaba, however, said he did not know if Masimirembwa actually received the money since this happened three years ago. Mnaba said he only assumed chairmanship of the company in March this year.
"I don't know whether Masimirembwa received the money or not. What I saw was a declaration of funds at the port of entry," Mnaba said.
"That is the money that is purported to have been given to Masimirembwa and whether he received it or not, I don't know."
Masimirembwa refused to comment on the matter yesterday, referring all questions to ZMDC whose general manager Jerry Ndlovu said he was in a meeting.
President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday lashed out at Masimirembwa accusing him of taking a $6 million bribe from Essien.
Mugabe said he would not allow such corrupt activities to occur under his watch and the law should take its course.
Mnaba said Mugabe was speaking on a more authoritative and informed position because he has various sources of information.
The GNR chairman said he had sketchy information of what transpired before he joined the company, but it was clear that the joint venture was not negotiated in good faith.
He said the Ghanaian only brought $8 million as capital injection and for operational costs against the $30 million promised in the due diligence and draft joint venture agreement with ZMDC.
The company, Mnaba said, had to borrow money from two local banks to finance its operations.
Mnaba said at the moment, the company was not productive due to lack of funds and failure to comply with the Environmental Management Agency requirements. Workers had gone for over six months without salaries.
"There are loopholes with the joint venture or someone was tampering with it. The investor is not committed to the contract that should see the lifespan of the mine," he said.
Mnaba said GYE took a $4 million loan from a local bank (name supplied). The company then applied for a $6 million loan from another local bank (name supplied), but only drew down $1,2 million.
"I don't hate Masimirembwa and Essien, but it is the way the joint venture was negotiated that is not good. It is not criminal to give anyone money, but you don't take the money from that meant to capitalise the venture," Mnaba said.
He said the deal had several loopholes as shown by the failure by the Ghanaian investor to pour in capital for the mining venture to operate.
When I joined (GNR) I hunted down to see if they complied with the joint venture agreement. The reason is that the mine was badly under-capitalised, they were actually using hired equipment from R Davies.
"When I tried to engage the Ghanaian he told me he had been banned for a period of 10 months from Zimbabwe. He told me that Masimirembwa had told him that he would be arrested if he came into Zimbabwe.
"I am the one who helped him come to the country where he was told by Police Commissioner-General (Augustine Chihuri) that no-one would be arrested. Then at a stakeholders' meeting, Masimirembwa was asked by (then Mines minister Obert) Mpofu why the Ghanaian would be arrested. Masimirembwa referred questions to Essien's local partner Itayi Munyeza."
In his tirade against Masimirembwa, Mugabe said the former ZMDC boss was working with two prominent business people in corrupt activities.
Munyeza, who was working as chief executive officer at First Capital Plus - a micro-finance institution controlled by Essien - yesterday denied any link to the issue, referring all questions to Masimirembwa.
"I have nothing to do with it," said Munyeza. "The case is directly linked to Masimirembwa."
Mnaba said it was, however, baffling how such an amount of money could be brought into the country in the form of cash, arguing both Masimirembwa and Essien had a case to answer if money really changed hands.
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