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We will spill beans: Zisco officials

Dumisani Muleya

CORPORATE officials interviewed by the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate (NECI) over the alleged looting by senior politicians at s

tate-owned steel-making enterprise, Zisco, have threatened to spill the beans.

Employees of Zisco and its Botswana subsidiaries, Ramotswa (Pvt) Ltd and Tswana Steel (Pvt) Ltd, as well as investigators of the graft at the foreign-currency spinning parastatal, told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that they were ready to reveal the names of top government officials involved in pillaging the firm.

Industry and International Trade minister Obert Mpofu has backtracked on promises to expose “underhand dealings” at Zisco.

Investigations by the Independent, including visits to Redcliff and checks in Botswana, shows that the Zisco scandal is easily the biggest case of high-level corruption to rock government since Independence in 1980. Information to hand — including the names of the culprits still undergoing verification — indicates it involves members of the state presidency, cabinet ministers, MPs and Zanu PF officials. An editor with a local newspaper plus company executives are also mentioned.

The NECI findings are contained in three reports, two voluminous ones dealing with the Zisco situation locally, and the other with the Botswana dimension to it.

Zisco is one of the largest state-owned enterprises in Zimbabwe. Its principal activities are the production and marketing of iron and steel. In the past it signed agreements with several British companies but recently lost a lucrative US$400 million contract with an Indian company, Global Steel Holdings.

The Reserve Bank said in July it had saved Zisco from closure by providing an emergency $2 trillion (old currency) lifeline. Production at the company had plunged by 88% from 14 200 to 1 600 metric tonnes in February. The firm is saddled with foreign debts of over US$126 million.

Whistleblowers said they would not allow authorities to sweep the issue under the carpet when they had provided the investigators with detailed information which clearly established systematic looting of public assets and attempts to use Zisco as a vehicle for self-enrichment.

“We are going to release the information when the right time comes if they continue trying to hide the corruption at Zisco,” a senior Zisco official said. “People from NECI led by their deputy director came to Redcliff and went to Botswana to probe the issue and we gave them all the information. So what’s the problem?

“If they believe they can manage to conceal corruption and then blame us for what happens at the company, then they should think twice. We will expose them sooner rather than later.”

Sources said NECI officials got all the information they need to nail those who were involved in the Zisco graft. The Independent’s contacts in Botswana said three NECI investigators visited that country from July 24 to August 3 last year to gather information.

While there, the NECI detectives went to the Grand Palm Hotel & Convention Resort in Gaborone where government officials used to squander Zisco money on expensive drinks and food almost every weekend.

The place, formerly the Grand Palm Hotel Casino Resort, is a five-star hotel and is located just outside Gaborone.

“The NECI people from Zimbabwe came here and we gave them all the information, including documents, to show who was booked here, when and for how long,” a source said.

A Zisco official said the raiding of the Midlands-based parastatal would make all previous government graft cases “look like a Sunday afternoon picnic when it eventually explodes.

“It is outrageous and we will make sure it is not covered-up,” the official said. “How can government try to hide corruption which is so brazen?”

The Zisco looting was done via bid-rigging of contracts and awarding of large sums of allowances in forex to top government officials and their cronies who claimed to be doing government business. Zisco also lost millions in forex due to overpricing by suppliers.

The parliamentary portfolio committee dealing with the issue has failed to get the NECI report on Zicso, with ministers giving excuses as to why the report could not be released.

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