Norton legislator and businessman Themba Mliswa could face yet another parliamentary probe for allegedly dragging Mines and Mining Development Portfolio Committee into the Makomo Resources and Zambezi Gas coal claims dispute, The Herald Business has learnt.
Mr Mliswa is already under probe for allegedly demanding a $400 000 bribe from local businessman Mr James Ross Goddard of JRG Contracting (Pvt) Ltd in exchange for a mining contract at Hwange Colliery Company.
Zambezi Gas and Makomo — some of the country’s largest coal producers — are locked in a turf war over the control of over 11 000 hectares of coal-rich claims in Matabeleland North province.
The dispute is negatively impacting on the country’s coal haul at a time President Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe is Open for Business mantra is showing green shoots that are certain to result in a rise in energy demand.
Sources at the Mining Affairs Board, have previously confided in the press that the dispute emanates from a mistake on Zambezi Gas’ special grant, which on its first page shows that the firm had been given 19 720 hactares but goes on to indicate that the land is 8 644ha on the second page.
However, it is understood, the map accompanying the special grant shows that Zambezi Gas’ land is actually 8 644ha as is on page two not the 19 720ha on page one.
But in new revelations unearthed by The Herald Business, Mr Mliswa is alleged to have clandestinely sought to railroad the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines and Mining Development into the dispute and influence a settlement favourable to Zambezi Gas.
Members of the committee who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity, said on November 17, 2018 they set off for Hwange in a “hastily” organised trip whose purpose was to tour Hwange Colliery Company as part of Parliament’s oversight role.
Members were, however, surprised to be diverted off their official schedule allegedly at the instigation of Mr Mliswa and ended up at Zambezi Gas, ostensibly to learn how private companies were conducting their coal business.
Once at Zambezi Gas, the MPs allege that the subject changed and the company’s dispute with Makomo became topical subject of discussion.
“We were surprised when we got there that everything then became all about their dispute with Makomo and it was clear we were meant to get involved in the dispute,” said a member of the committee who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“To sweeten the deal, we were all paid $300 each, about 38 of us but they were not done just yet.
“Later on we were taken to one of the most prestigious restaurants in the resort town of Victoria Falls where we were treated to expensive food and whiskey,” said the MP who spoke to The Herald Business in the presence of three other members of the committee, all of whom concurred.
Zambezi Gas deputy MD and shareholder Mr Linos Masimura, confirmed giving the MPs $300 each but insisted it was just corporate social responsibility and not meant to solicit for any favours.
Mr Masimura also confirmed treating the MPs to “dinner” at one of Victoria Falls’ most iconic restaurants, the Boma, which he said had already been planned for Zambezi Gas staff as it was around Christmas time.
“These allegations are basically baseless because we had no issue before Parliament,” said Mr Masimura. “. . . when they came we were going to have an end of year dinner. . . so they also came for the dinner.
“At the dinner, their chairperson (Mr Mliswa) openly said ‘you know Government these days doesn’t have much money, these MPs you see are struggling financially, they haven’t been paid their allowances . . . then we made a donation to everyone who was there,” he said.
Sources in the portfolio committee said afterwards, Mr Mliswa then allegedly asked the parliamentarians to immediately make recommendations to Government to hastily facilitate the handover of the disputed claims to Zambezi Gas.
It is alleged that members of the committee, however, refused to accede to the demands resulting in a nasty confrontation between the legislators in full view of hotel staff at the MPs’ place of residence with Mr Mliswa particularly threatening to physically assault Gutu West legislator John Paradza.
Mr Mliswa could not be reached for comment yesterday