Businessman Lovemore Kurotwi was arrested in 2010 on charges of prejudicing the State of $2 billion in a botched diamond deal after then Mines minister Obert Mpofu accused him of fraud.
The case dragged on at the High Court until early this month when he was acquitted by Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, who ruled that Kurotwi had dealt with government in good faith and that it was government that failed to meet the outlined demands for the proposed joint venture between Core Mining and Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation into Canadile Miners.
Canadile was taken over by Marange Resources following the cancellation of its operating licence at the instigation of Mpofu.
After his acquittal, Kurotwi immediately published a book, The Rise and Fall of Chiadzwa, My Personal Experience.
Our chief reporter Everson Mushava (EM) caught up with Kurotwi (LK) to find out how his incarceration had affected him and what motivated him to publish the book on diamonds.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
EM: You have been acquitted on charges of prejudicing the State of $2 billion in a botched diamond deal, what is your comment on the case?
LK: I am more than vindicated. All along it was very clear that I was innocent, but those that thought they were above the law pursued me to the ends of the law and they were proved wrong.
There was never any fraud, but trumped up charges and the law courts have proved that.
EM: Did the delay in the conclusion of the case affect you?
LK: Obviously, you have family, friends and business associates to interact with.
When such an albatross is hanging around your neck, you begin to smell like a skunk and even some people close to you no longer want to associate with you because you are tainted.
Business associates don’t want to do anything with you in case what you are accused of having done rubs onto them one way or another.
So it’s a real psychological roller coaster, but then again, that’s what life means and surviving that is some measure of real success in its own right.
EM: Are you bitter that Mpofu caused your arrest in what has been proved to be false charges?
LK: I have nothing against him really. I think when it comes to some of these issues, the best thing to do is; rather than take any vengeful path, you leave everything to divine equalisation and I think Minister Mpofu will have his own comeuppance with divinity.
As for advice to him:
Minister Mpofu, you can’t have what you ain’t got and you can never lose what you ain’t never had.
There is so much satisfaction with what’s yours. Remember, there is always divine equalisation when vadzimu naMwari [ancestral spirits and God] fight for those perceived to be powerless by those who perceive themselves to have power over everybody.
So never take anybody for granted.
Try and respect every human being because they too, like you, are a product of the divine.
EM: You have recently published a book, The Rise and Fall of Chiadzwa, what motivated you and what is your central message in the book?
LK: I have always been fascinated with issues of disempowerment, especially when it is being dished out by one brother to the other when we are supposed to empower each other.
Anybody who denies others access in whatever way is an impediment to human progress. That’s my main message in all my writings.
And allied to my obsession with matters of disempowerment, I am also a one-man anti-corruption jihadist who is also concerned with good governance both corporately and at state level.
I am a believer in empowering my people and I think the best form of empowerment is through value addition.
These major themes ring through and through all my works whether this comes in the form of my latest tome or others I have written before.
EK: What do you think is the way forward if Zimbabwe is to get rewards from its diamond industry?
LK: We need to have our systems of control in order. We need to ensure that we have correct corporate governance throughout.
There is no substitution for value addition. There is no substitute for an investor-friendly business atmosphere whose easiness of doing business attracts investors. And we have to be serious about our fight against corruption.
If we give attention to these matters, we might begin to see not only a meaningful diamond industry in Zimbabwe, but a real turnaround of Zimbabwe’s fortunes.
EM: After the court case, do you think you will be involved in diamond business again?
LK: When the United States dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, they killed nearly half a million Japanese, but did you hear the emperor ordering the Japanese to stop giving birth because of this massive destruction of their people? No he didn’t.
Instead, he got the Japanese to be more vigilant, but to direct their energies to matters that would develop Japan to become a global industrial giant instead of making Japan a war monger.
And look at what has happened? Almost every car on our roads is Japanese! Likewise, in business, nasty experiences like mine are mere occupational hazards in the world of business, which simply teaches you when, where and how fingers get burned and you avoid such hazards next time.
So yes, I will take up any business opportunity that comes up, be it in the diamond industry or any other, provided it gives Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans generational wealth and, therefore, generational happiness.
EM: You have been working on a giant project, the Zimbabwe Diamond Technology Centre (ZDTC), how far have you gone with it?
LK: While we have reached roof level with most of its structures, I must point out that the court case put me in bad stead as far as financiers are concerned because as those in the know say, capital is a very timid animal and when it hears such words as fraud, whether trumped up as in my case or not, the tendency of capital is to flee.
However, now that we have got this case out of the way and the whole world knows that I am innocent, I now have to click the restart button and think out new strategies on how to revive the centre and get it to the level I have always wanted it to get to.
EM: In your view, what is the source of government’s reluctance to utilise your facility?
LK: I think it’s not government per se, but an era during which certain people in government had their own personal vendettas and, therefore, did everything to give the wrong picture against the Diamond Technology Centre simply because they hated me.
I think that era is gone and the new authorities in government are more rational than the previous lot. And there is also the freshly made court ruling that has proved me innocent.
I don’t think it will be long before we re-engage each other with government and see how we can co-operate and move such a fantastic idea as the ZDTC forward now that all the hurdles that could have been the reasons putting us apart have been proved to be works of those with personal jealousies, greed and utter raw corrupt psyches.
EM: President Robert Mugabe said about $15 billion diamond revenue is missing, and since the mining of diamond, the country has not benefited from the world’s biggest discovery, where do you think government went wrong?
LK: First of all, let us get what the president said correctly. He said, we as government received only around $2 billion, but we think around $15 billion was realised by the mining companies.
He never gave absolute figures, but he made off the cuff estimates, but the whole world is now trying to make this sound like the president said this with a calculator on the side and everybody is talking about $15 billion, which was never said as an absolute figure.
However, the government should have from the word go given the whole Marange diamond field to one strong investor who would partner with it.
This would have made management and accountability easier. But they gave eight licences to an already controversial resource like diamonds, meaning that they exposed themselves to management and accountability problems eight times over.
I suggested that when I was applying for the Canadile licence and they didn’t listen, but now they are reverting to my advice, though it is now too late as it is now attracting lawsuits
EM: Going forward, what do you think government should do to ensure the country benefits from the gems?
LK: There is nothing that can beat value addition. In fact, that is the whole idea about ZDTC.
Right now as we are selling raw diamonds, we are exporting jobs and enriching other jurisdictions while we are still complaining about a 95% unemployment rate in our own backyard. So value addition is the best way to go if we have to realise the maximum benefit from our gems.
EM: In the book, you said $10 million cash and $150 million worth of diamond was confiscated when you were arrested. Now that you have been acquitted, have you received your money back? If not, what are you going to do to recover it?
LK: I have not received my money and goods together with mining equipment which is currently being used by Marange Resources.
What is Marange Resources today is all my mining equipment. We believe they will be gentlemen enough to make good failure of them, we will be left with no other avenue than to start the legal and proper process of recovering both the stolen money and goods and there are many legal ways of doing this inclusive of the arbitration route.
The acquittal now gives us the opportunity.