Tuesday, February 05, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) Mzembi says refused US$100k RioZim bribe

Mzembi says refused US$100k RioZim bribe
04/02/2013 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter

TOURISM Minister Walter Mzembi, accused by RioZim Limited of trying to seize the firm’s gold mine in Masvingo, has in turn claimed the company offered him a US$100,000 bribe in a bid to buy his silence in an on-going labour dispute with its workers.

The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed group is involved in a labour dispute with workers at its Renco Gold Mine in Masvingo but has accused Mzembi, who is MP for the area, of trying to use the stand-off to seize control of the lucrative mine.

In a statement, RioZim said Mzembi had tried to impose Zanu PF’s Chivi South legislator Irvine Dzingirai as general manager at the mine in an attempted takeover of the company under the guise of the country’s indigenisation laws.

"Minister Mzembi arrived at the mine... He called a public meeting and announced that RioZim had not complied with the indigenisation obligations of the country and hence they were taking over Renco," the company said.

The company also accused Mzembi of using threats and intimidation to bar RioZim directors and management from the mine while denying them access to the company's gold bullion.

But the minister denied the allegations insisting: "That's political slander. I'm surprised by their statement, which seeks to politicise what is a dispute between them and their workers.

"I have no interest in the mine's shareholders except to say they must comply with the laws of this country. I have never taken an ounce of gold from Renco, nor do I intend to, but my people are crying for justice."

And on Tuesday the Masvingo South MP claimed RioZim tried to buy his silence with a US$100,000 bribe, a claim immediately rejected by the firm.

Counter accusations

“They tried to buy me out of this case, with a US$100 000 brown envelope which I turned down, preferring to advance community and worker issues which they have blatantly violated over the past 40 years,” Mzembi told the Herald newspaper.

“I am not that cheap neither is my constituency worth so little, after four decades of gross neglect and abuse. They must try someone else.

“I will not be bought with filthy lucre to sell an entire constituency’s aspirations and dreams about development which they clearly see being implemented more responsibly by other corporates like Zimplats and Unki in areas where they are operating.”

The claim was dismissed by RioZim chief executive Ashton Ndlovu, who said: “I do not know where the minister is getting that (bribery allegations) from.

“Any money spent by the company is accounted for because we are public listed company. All the money we give out is not given to individuals.”

Mzembi said he would continue to press for better working conditions for the mine’s workers.

“This is a classic case of trying to prevent me from exercising my legitimate role of interceding on behalf of the community in their dispute with RioZim shareholders,” he charged.

“I will not dignify corporate political slander on my person, neither will I be intimidated by litigation from exercising my representative role as Member of Parliament.

“I have no intention of owning a mine, my plate is already full, with my calling to represent the people, but if they expect me to turn a blind eye to exploitation of our people, then they have got it wrong.”

Renco - formed in 2004 when Rio Tinto Plc sold off most of its Zimbabwe assets - produced 11 000 ounces of gold in the first half of 2012, when it resumed operations after shutting down at the height of Zimbabwe's hyperinflation crisis in 2008.
RioZim owns Empress Nickel Refinery, 50% of Sengwa Colliery, several exploration claims and a 22% stake in Murowa Diamonds.

The company was saddled with $50m of debt and on the verge of collapse in 2012 but was saved when New York-based private equity fund Global Emerging Markets took a 25% stake.

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