Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
A war of words erupted during a parliamentary committee meeting yesterday between Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena over the work of the committee.
Cde Kasukuwere was appearing before the committee to give oral evidence on the circumstances surrounding the establishment of the Zimunya-Marange Community Share Ownership Trust that was established in 2012.
Five diamond mining companies in Marange — Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Jinan, Diamond Mining Corporation and Anjin Investments — were said to have pledged a combined $50 million towards capitalisation of a diamond company that was to be owned by the community.
However, when the companies appeared before the Indigenisation committee they claimed that they had not pledged anything while Anjin Investments said they had only pledged $1,5 million.
Minister Kasukuwere, who presided over the establishment of a number of Community Share Ownership Trusts as Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, has been on record saying the mining firms misled the committee.
When he appeared before the committee yesterday, Minister Kasukuwere insisted the firms had pledged through shareholders who were in agreement with the Government policy on empowering indigenous Zimbabweans.
The blow-by-blow clash started when Cde Wadyajena said the committee investigations did not amount to a witch-hunt before Cde Kasukuwere interjected saying: “Well it appears so. I think it’s a big witch-hunt. A misplaced one.”
Cde Wadyajena asked how and why the committee would witch-hunt him.
“Mr Chairman, you have been very careless, I have recordings of your own discussions with journalists. I have recordings of your own self speaking on television and trying to impute that there has been corruption. We respect this committee, we respect Parliament but this institution must never be used for political grand standing. We must take each other seriously,” he said.
But Cde Wadyajena interjected: “Honourable Minister if you have any recordings there are authorities where you can take them to.
“You are free to take them anywhere, I won’t be intimidated. I am doing my job and I will continue with this investigation.”
Minister Kasukuwere said he had a right to clear his name that had been tarnished by Cde Wadyajena.
Said Cde Wadyajena: “Honourable Minister whether you say I have abused my position or what, I will not entertain that. May you please behave yourself.
“As I said before the purpose of the meeting is not witch-hunting. We are just doing our oversight role as mandated by the Standing Orders Section 160 and 167.”
But Minister Kasukuwere said: “Of course I still feel and strongly believe that witch-hunts are part and parcel of what you are doing but in a way that is part of youthful exuberance.”
Responded Cde Wadyajena: “Honourable Minister are you an animal that can be hunted? I doubt! I am just doing my job. May you please allow me to do my job.”
Then Minister Kasukuwere said he was too big to be hunted by youths like Cde Wadyajena whom he said was trying to use a catapult to kill an elephant adding that he would lose the fight.
Cde Wadyajena implored Minister Kasukuwere to present evidence of him to the National Assembly Speaker or the Clerk so that they could take action than just threatening him.
Minister Kasukuwere said the decision whether to take the issue up with authorities was his although he felt he was being subjected to political harassment.
“I think your conduct Mr chairperson of your very esteemed committee is not correct. I am a Member of Parliament just like you, elected by the people of Zimbabwe to be in Parliament. I think you must take this House seriously.
“We get worried when you make press statements on issues that are before Parliament, I have not been heard conclusively and you are quoted on a number of press articles including dabbling with these matters on the Internet,” said Minister Kasukuwere.
This prompted MDC-T legislator for Mkoba, Mr Amos Chibaya to call for a truce between the two saying it was their party politics.
But Cde Wadyajena interjected: “I am challenging him to present the evidence of me talking to journalists to the authorities. He can’t just be making reckless statements. This is a reckless statement. You have to take the matters where you are supposed to take them not to me. If you are so sure I have gone around and issued press statements. I have never issued press statements. You can approach the Speaker of Parliament.”