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Despecified Mawere speaks out on future

The government last week despecified Mutumwa Mawere (MM), a Zimbabwean-born businessman who is now a South Africa citizen, along with James Makamba and John Moxon. Before his specification Mawere owned a chain of companies in mining, finance and agriculture which were put under the control of a government-appointed administrator. The Zimbabwe Independent’s Pau Nyakazeya (PN) this week interviewed Mawere on this and his future plans.

PN: How many companies did you lose after being specified?

MM: In total 26 companies. You will be aware that SMM Holdings Private Limited (SMM); FSI Agricom Holdings Private Limited (FS); CFI Holdings Limited (CFI) and Zimre Holdings Limited (Zimre) were specified at the same time. After failing to extradite me in May/June 2004, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, (Patrick) Chinamasa specified me on 9 July 2004 under the Prevention of Corruption Act and this was followed by the specification of companies deemed to be under my control on 26 August 2004. Mr Samson Mangoma, Assistant Commissioner of Police, and Mr Reginald Saruchera were appointed as investigators of me and the companies respectively.

In September 2004 an administrator, Mr Afaras Gwaradzimba, was appointed pursuant to a decree promulgated by the president using a false premise that SMM was indebted to the state notwithstanding the fact that when the company was specified barely a month earlier, there was no question of state indebtedness.

My case is unique in that my assets ought to have been protected by the investigator and yet a new law was passed subsequently allowing the state and its agents to take the very same assets that were supposed to be protected.

The courts have ruled in all the cases brought before them that I had no authority to defend my interests on account of the specification meaning that if I had no such authority then no one including the administrator has such authority without the permission of the investigator.
The facts of the matter confirm that no such authority was sought and granted by the investigator allowing for the Reconstruction of State Indebted Insolvent Companies Act to take precedence over the Prevention of Corruption Act.

PN: What is the market capitalisation your companies that were taken today and when they were seized?
MM: The companies were seized in 2004 and were valued at about US$400 million employing about 22 000 people. Having been alienated from the companies for the last six years, I would not know what the value is as of today.

PN: How much have you used in legal fees as you tried to reclaim your assets as well as fighting the specification?
MM: The legal costs are estimated at about US$5 million.

PN: How are you going to fight for the return of your assets?
MM: The only route for reclaiming the assets that were put outside my control by virtue of the operation of the Prevention of Corruption Act is to ask the Co-Ministers of Home Affairs to recover such assets as required by law. The Prevention of Corruption Act has no provision for expropriation and now that the investigations have been completed and the co-ministers have made a determination, it is important that the law takes its own course. I have no right of audience to the court to litigate on matters that took place when I was legally disabled.

PN: What is your view with regards to the way Mr Gwaradzimba administered your firms?
MM: To the extent that Gwaradzimba is a creature of statute, I should like to believe that he was acting for and on behalf of a principal. We all know to whom he reported and any loss that is occasioned by his actions has to be the responsibility of the state that appointed him. What is striking is that he was the auditor of the very companies that he was appointed to administer. The conduct of Gwaradzimba can hardly suggest that he has tried to be independent and unbiased, if anything, he is now part of the story.

PN: If you were to meet Gwaradzimba today what would you tell or ask him given the derelict state of some of your firms such as Shabanie Mine?
MM: I have nothing personal to say to Gwaradzimba. It is up to his masters to deal with him.  I should like to believe that his masters are quite happy with the manner in which he has discharged his responsibilities. If the aim was to destroy the so-called Mawere empire then the evidence shows how efficiently this has been done over a short period of time.  I guess that must please the people who deemed fit to appoint him.

PN: Do you fear the police could still pursue you?
MM: You will be aware that the specification route was only pursued after the South African court had dismissed the extradition application. If I was extradited as expected then I should like to believe that it would not have been necessary to specify me. The facts that purportedly supported the extradition application were the same as the facts that allegedly led the minister to make a decision to specify me. You may not be aware that the co-ministers asked the investigator to meet with me in South Africa in February of this year. The investigations were then completed as the investigator had taken the view commonly taken that I had run away which is not the case. The investigator in my case was a policeman and, therefore, your question would not arise. The co-ministers are responsible for the police and I should like to believe that if there were anything outstanding they would have taken note of it before making a ruling that there were no grounds to specify me.

PN: What do you make of the rule of law in Zimbabwe?
MM: My case is not unique but many were and continue to be affected by actions of state actors that seem to suggest that there is no appreciation of the link between the existence of the rule of law and national progress. The executive drove the actions that were taken against me. That left me with no choice but to approach the courts in the belief that an independent judiciary would see what was at play. Regrettably after more than 23 court cases in Zimbabwe, I have come to the conclusion that we need to examine whether our institutions are the best guarantors of the constitution.

 

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