HARARE – Chairperson of the Mines and Energy parliamentary portfolio committee Temba Mliswa has threatened to resign after Zanu PF MPs blocked the fielding of testimony by Hwange Colliery board member Nicholas van Hoogstraten yesterday. Multi-millionaire tycoon Van Hoogstraten — who was itching to speak on the mess that his company was in — had been invited by the Mliswa-led parliamentary panel to tender oral evidence together with sector stakeholders on the operations of Hwange Colliery Company.
Hwange mines coal in the northwest of Zimbabwe on some of the country’s richest coal deposits. The committee had invited the 73-year-old Van Hoogstraten, a key Zanu PF funder, to find out how the company was operating after government gazetted an order, effective October 30, placing the company under reconstruction in terms of section 4 of the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act. Hwange, in which government is the biggest shareholder with 37 percent shares, is the nation’s second largest coal producer and supplies coke to national electricity company Zesa.
The reconstruction order appointed Bekithemba Moyo, co-founder and director of DBF Capital partners, to be the administrator of the company, together with two assistant administrators under his control and direction — Mutsa Mollie Jean Remba, the current managing partner of Harare-based law firm Dube, Manikai & Hwacha, and Munashe Shava, a chief operating officer and project leader at Great Dyke Investments, Harare. The reconstruction order suspends the board of directors of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed miner, which also trades its shares on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges.
Moyo snubbed the Mliswa-led committee when it visited Hwange last month. Van Hoogstraten was invited by the parliamentary panel three weeks ago, but the businessman was in London at that time. When the property tycoon pitched up yesterday, the committee split into two, with Zanu PF MPs saying his hearing must be postponed because the matter was now subjudice since it was now before courts of law.
Mliswa clashed in angry scenes with his unyielding committee members, who insisted that summoning of Van Hoogstraten was “out of order”. Zanu PF committee members impertinently accused Mliswa of waging his own personal wars with the businessman, while other MDC MPs accused Zanu PF MPs of attempting to cover up the Hwange rot. The argument by the committee members was turned into a political façade with some MPs accusing Zanu PF MPs of pre-planning the disruption as a cover up for Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando. Mbizo MDC MP Settlement Chikwinya said: “Why are Zanu PF members protecting the minister? We know you are protecting the minister and you came with this plan in mind.”
Van Hoogstraten raised the temperatures when he asked that the rancorous MPs be chucked out from the Senate so that he could give his presentation. Some MPs went on to massacre the multi-millionaire tycoon saying that he had no business telling the committee what to do. At the end, Mliswa called in the clerk of Parliament who made a resolution with the Senate privately, after which Mliswa then notified Hwange Colliery shareholders together with journalists present, that he had resolved to resign. “I have admitted before my colleagues that I didn’t make the right decision. “I miscalculated and as a result I take full responsibility and I will see further if I am still fit to chair this committee. “As such, it is not good for any chair to divide a committee…and I have to introspect if I want to be chair because my integrity and dignity is important. “Within 48 hours I shall inform the nation of my position,” Mliswa said.
In an interview after the meeting, Van Hoogstraten said: “They are trying to cover recent corruption that has been going on there and you can never imagine the kind of corruption that was going on there. “…I cannot quantify the corruption because some of it was being done through tenders of service. “We reported about externalisation of about $10 million of forex monthly by a Chinese company that was supposedly in a joint venture with Hwange Colliery for more than three years now but the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has since not done anything about it.”
He also said as a shareholder of the company, he had never been consulted about the reconstruction of the company, or many other developments that took place, such as the joint venture with the unnamed Chinese company. Van Hoogstraten said he had put in place both short and mid-term measures to protect his interests, saying that he is litigating against the reconstruction of Hwange Colliery.
Former Mines and Energy Parliamentary Portfolio committee chairperson Daniel Shumba, in unsolicited comments, said the reconstruction of Hwange is unconstitutional and there are people trying to cover up their corruption tracks. He said that the committee instead of arguing could have questioned the business man about his constitutional rights and violations of his investments and not necessarily the court case, in adherence to procedures. “Zanu PF is the biggest henchman of corruption in the country and are using State capture to further their interests,” he said.