*The Diamond Report
A NOW DAILY INVESTIGATION
By John Chimunhu
Mbada Diamonds chairman and president Robert Mugabe’s former helicopter pilot, retired Colonel Robert Mhlanga has teamed up with discredited former minister of mines Obert Mpofu to acquire The Zimbabwe Mail newspaper, Now Daily can exclusively reveal.
Knowledgeable sources confirmed the takeover on Tuesday, which has given an unexpected new lease of life to the paper, which had closed down due to undercapitalization.
Media watchers expressed fears that the Mail, which was independent when it was founded by local investors and journalists a few years ago, had now taken a decidedly pro-Mugabe tone.
Consumer Action said in an exclusive statement to Now Daily on Wednesday that the acquisition must be probed.
“Obert Mpofu and Robert Mhlanga have been implicated in the scandals that have cost Zimbabwe billions of dollars in state revenue in Marange. It is certainly in the public interest for us to ask where all this money is coming from and why there is this sudden burst of propaganda,” Consumer Action, an activist group, said.
A Parliamentary committee investigation in 2013 accused Mpofu of abusing his powers in selecting Marange diamond joint venture partners for the government and of failing to monitor developments in Chiadzwa. The report also accused Mhlanga’s Mbada Diamonds of not paying taxes amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars since 2010.
The Movement for Democratic Change president and former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai openly accused Mpofu of corruption and last year summoned him to explain during a meeting also attended by Mugabe. Tsvangirai questioned how Mpofu had suddenly acquired a bank (Allied Bank, formerly ZABG) and numerous properties in Bulawayo, Gwanda and Victoria Falls.
Global Witness named Mhlanga as a facilitator in the smuggling of raw diamonds from Marange by the Chinese Red Army. This was after Mhlanga started building an expensive mansion in South Africa.
Mugabe sacked Mpofu last year and ordered the new mines minister, Walter Chidhakwa to investigate the theft of diamonds. Chidhakwa has since sacked many of the people appointed by Mpofu to diamond joint venture boards. Government investigators are now probing the private businesses of the officials in a desperate attempt to recover stolen diamond money.
*The Diamond Report