A few weeks after the Tsholotsho event I travelled to the United Kingdom to lead the Zimbabwean delegation at the London 2012 Olympics. I am the first to admit that I landed with my bum in the butter. On arrival at Heathrow I was allocated a spanking new BMW driven by a British judge who had volunteered his services, and this set the tone for the next two weeks
All the ministers of Sport who attended the Games were treated like royalty, and I was no exception. When I was issued with my accreditation pass it had the word “ALL” inscribed on it in bold letters; on asking what that meant, I was told I could attend any event I chose to.
My first priority was to follow all our Zimbabwean athletes. We had a small but vibrant team in swimming, rowing and athletics, and I made sure to attend every event they participated in. But I also made full use of the “ALL” and attended nearly all the major swimming and athletic finals. It wasn’t all play, however. I met with William Hague on the sidelines to discuss Zimbabwe, and on Sunday, 12 August I had a productive discussion with British Deputy
Prime Minister Nick Clegg shortly before the closing ceremony. In that meeting I stressed how important it was to give peace a chance in Zimbabwe. While the GPA and the GNU themselves were flawed, we were making progress towards a new constitution, which needed to be supported. In fact, the British government was by this time pouring money into the education sector, which I was grateful for. Aside from keeping BEAM afloat, shortly before I left for the Olympics I had launched a new US$26 million DFID grant towards educating vulnerable girls. I suggested to Clegg that the British needed to engage Mugabe himself to encourage the process of reform. I explained that notwithstanding all the terrible things that had befallen Zimbabwe, the GNU and the
GPA process was the only peaceful way of taking the country forward.
My discussion with Clegg yielded immediate, albeit informal, results. On 29 August a British citizen arrived in Harare for discussions with me. His visit was an “unofficial, exploratory trip” to see whether there was any opportunity for dialogue. Although “very close to Nick Clegg”, the initiative was personal and came on the back of his “long association with Africa and work with Oliver Tambo, Thabo Mbeki and the then South African authorities in secret dialogue between the two during the period 1985–1991”. I spoke to Tsvangirai and Ncube to see whether they would welcome such an initiative and, having received the greenlight from them both, met with Mugabe, on 11 September, who immediately showed interest in meeting.
The last quarter of 2012 produced a stalemate in the GNU and cabinet. This was due to a combination of factors, but the dominant underpinning one was that the final procedures to complete the draft constitution were taking place, focusing attention on elections which would follow. But there were problems within cabinet. Vice-President Nkomo and Minister Mudenge were sickly and rarely present. Tsvangirai, too, was absent a great deal, having recently got married and away on honeymoon. Finally, the tension between Mugabe and Ncube in particular was painfully obvious. While Mugabe would interact jovially with most cabinet ministers, he studiously avoided contact with Ncube. While the principals were still meeting, they met under the cloud of knowing that one of the three parties to the GPA was unhappy.
Although the economy had continued to grow, Biti routinely came to cabinet complaining that diamond mines were not paying Treasury what they ought. On 2 October he reported that Treasury had received no diamond revenue for September against a budget of US$50 million.
Shortly afterwards a detailed report was published entitled “Reap what you sow: Greed and Corruption in Zimbabwe’s Marange Diamond Fields”, which alleged staggering levels of corruption. It noted, for example, that one company, Trebo (Obert spelt backwards) & Khays, linked to Mines minister Obert Mpofu, had taken a 99,5% stake in the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG) in 2012 after injecting US$22,5 million. The “Reap what you sow” report had a special section on Mpofu, entitled “Rags to riches: the Obert Mpofu story”, which detailed a vast array of assets Mpofu was alleged to have acquired, stating: “… he has become very rich since becoming Minister of Mines”.