FORMER Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu yesterday revealed for the first time how he acquired some of his much-talked-about wealth, but said the wealth acquisition was aboveboard as it emanated from a golden handshake he got from Tregers.
Minister Mpofu, who is now the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development, was the managing director at the Zanu-PF-owned Tregers company in the 1980s.
Dismissing allegations that he asked for a $10 million bribe from Core Mining director Lovemore Kurotwi at the High Court yesterday, Minister Mpofu said he started acquiring properties as far back as 1989 after resigning from Tregers. Asked how many properties he owned in Bulawayo, he mentioned his first acquisition as the popular Yolk House.
He said he owned another building along Main Street in Bulawayo and several other properties he acquired through “some other companies”. Minister Mpofu said he owned number 25061 Greystone Park in Harare, 644 Borrowdale Brooke and many other properties in the city.
In Victoria Falls, Minister Mpofu said he owned a warehouse and several houses that accommodate his workers. He told the court that he was one of the biggest cattle ranchers in Zimbabwe, with a herd of at least 4 000.
“I am one of the biggest ranchers with 4 000 head of cattle,” he said. “I am also leasing CSC (Cold Storage Commission) farms.” Minister Mpofu refused to give a cumulative value of his properties in Zimbabwe, which has been a subject of speculation for a long time.
He told the court that he was a successful businessman and that the allegations that he solicited for a bribe from Kurotwi were ridiculous and unbelievable as he was in a position to employ him and his co-accused, Dominic Mubaiwa.
Kurotwi and Mubaiwa are being tried for allegedly defrauding the Government of $2 billion in a diamond mining joint venture. Minister Mpofu, the State’s last witness in the trial, told the court he was even offered shares in Tregers before he ventured in a property acquisition spree through Bureau de Change businesses.“I worke d in Government for a few years until 1985 when I joined Tregers as a managing director.
“Tregers was a big company and I was offered shares in the firm. “In 1989, when I left Tregers, I was given a golden handshake, which I used to acquire properties and have never looked back.
“We acquired several properties in the name of a company called Treble and Kays,” he said. The court heard that the minister became a councillor for Umguza in the late 1980s before being appointed a non-constituency Member of Parliament.
Kurotwi’s lawyer Mrs Beatrice Mtetwa told the court that when Canadile Miners was dissolved, some $140 million worth of diamond stocks went missing together with $10 million cash that was in the company’s bank account. When Kurotwi and the other shareholders in Core Mining were kicked out, Mrs Mtetwa said some dividend meant for them to the tune of $3,4 million was withheld at the instruction of the then Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chairman Mr Godwills Masimirembwa. Asked to comment on the whereabouts of the missing diamond stocks and the cash, Minister Mpofu said he had nothing to do with that and that he was not aware of how they disappeared. “That is nonsense,” he said. “It is not a minister’s business and I do not know anything about that.”
Justice Chinembiri Bhunu then intervened and reprimanded Minister Mpofu for using unacceptable language in court. “Minister, you do not use such language in court,” he warned him.
The trial continues today with Minister Mpofu being cross-examined by Mubaiwa’s lawyer Mr Unity Sakhe.