Hot Seat transcript: Zanu-PF ‘diamond whistleblower' Chindori-Chininga dies in car crash
The discussion on SW Radio Africa's Hot Seat this week is about the death of Zanu-PF legislator Edward Chindori-Chininga, who last week released a damning report about the involvement of ZANU PF officials and allies in the diamond industry. He died in a car crash on Wednesday. Alan Martin the director of research at Partnership Africa Canada, a civil society organization that is part of the Kimberley Process, communicated extensively with Chindori- Chininga in recent weeks.
He says Chindori- Chininga told him earlier this month that he knew he was a "marked man" and that his work as chairman of the parliamentary committee on mines had ended his political career in ZANU PF. He is said to have told delegates at a workshop in South Africa two weeks ago that some of the individuals in government who complained about the targeted western economic sanctions were the same people who were benefitting the most from the restrictions, because it allowed them to operate in the grey zone.
BROADCAST: 20 JUNE 2013
VIOLET GONDA: The Zanu PF MP for Guruve South, Edward Chindori-Chininga, died in a car crash while driving in his constituency on Wednesday. This has set Zimbabwe talking because last Wednesday he released a damning report about the involvement of Zanu PF officials and allies in the diamond industry. Only two weeks ago the lawmaker was at a workshop prior to the Kimberley Process meeting in South Africa and delegates told SW Radio Africa he was openly critical of the diamond situation in Zimbabwe. Last week as chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines and Energy, Chindori-Chininga presented this highly critical report to parliament on Zimbabwe's diamond industry.
Alan Martin is the director of research at Partnership Africa Canada, a civil society organization that is part of the Kimberley Process, and he's someone who communicated extensively in the last few weeks with the late former Mines minister and I asked him to tell me more about the work that Chindori-Chininga was involved in. Mr Martin welcome to the programme Hot Seat.
ALAN MARTIN: Thank you very much Violet.
GONDA: First of all can you start by giving us your reaction to the sad news?
MARTIN: Well I think it is a great tragedy, obviously for his family and we express our condolences to his wife and his family on his passing. I think he was certainly a maverick politician and I think that the work that he did in his role as the chair of the portfolio committee on Energy and Mines I think was absolutely stellar. I think he was a great example of probably perhaps the best parliamentary tradition of using his role to use the parliamentary structures to try and find out and get to the truth of the matter or the issues that were surrounding Marange and I think that for that we will always be indebted to him for his work.
GONDA: Did it surprise you that there was a senior member of Zanu PF who was forthcoming with information on diamond dealings in the country?
MARTIN: Yes. I should clarify that my personal relationship with him is actually quite new; in the time that I was doing research on Marange, a lot of it was by using information that he had gleaned from his inquisitory style in the committee where he revealed a lot of information. He got company officials and government officials, members of the ZMDC for example and even the minister (Obert Mpofu) himself to admit things in front of the committee which I felt very useful for my work.
But I personally only met him for the first time at the beginning of this month and I think I was very much struck by the fact that he had this sort of independent sense of style, this belief that he had a role and parliament had a role in finding out and having some kind of oversight of what happened in Marange. So I was a bit surprised, perhaps to one degree, to the extent that someone in a senior seat in government would be this cooperative but I think the lesson I also take from him is that despite the fact that we might have had our disagreements, it's always important to remember that even in regimes such as that in Mugabe's faction that I think there are people who are always willing to listen and to be able to talk despite the fact that we might have our disagreements.
GONDA: Several parliamentarians have described him as a man who really knew his mining issues and was a no-nonsense kind of guy especially during sessions where he chaired the parliamentary portfolio committee on mining. I hear he even tried hard to get corrupt guys to answer the right questions during hearings and he repeatedly interrupted people reminding them that they were under oath and that perjury is a crime. I also received an email that he sent out last week to the outside world, and I think you were also on that mailing list, and basically he was forwarding the contents of the report that he presented in parliament. The report had quite some astounding issues - what can you tell us about the report?
MARTIN: As you say it was very surprising; it was one that took about four years to write so it was quite a well thought out piece and I think one of the things that I thought was the most striking about it was that it essentially, from a government perspective, for somebody in his position to essentially be agreeing with the Minister of Finance that there was a huge discrepancy between what companies were remitting to government and what the Treasury was receiving. And one of the things he did was to actually go to the companies themselves and ask them to reveal how much they had paid to the government in terms of royalties, depletion fees, marketing fees, dividends, corporate tax - things like that - and just in the case of Mbada for example - Mbada told the committee that they had given something like a US$117 million and yet the government could only account for 41 million of those. So I think this was a pretty astounding thing. And he was very clear in directing responsibility for this directly at the executive, particularly the Minister of Mines.
And I think this is one of the things that made him so effective in that position as committee chair. As a former Minister of Mines he knew exactly how that ministry was supposed to work which I think made it very difficult for people to try and whitewash him. Just in terms of the lead up to your question, I think one of the things that he was very good at, even in the case of Minister Mpofu, he even mentioned about how he had issued four subpoenas to Mpofu to, recently to appear before the committee and Mpofu had been denying those and dismissing them and I think finally he had to actually get the Speaker to issue, or get the police to actually go and present the Minister with that final subpoena which if he'd not agreed to would have resulted in the Minster's arrest. This man was very tenacious; I think he really believed that parliament and Zimbabwe deserved to have answers as to how this precious resource was being managed.
<< The car in which Edward Chindori-Chininga died
GONDA: Did he openly refer to corrupt elements in the industry as ‘barons'?
MARTIN: He did. He had said that during a conference, a workshop that was held in Jo'burg at the beginning of this month where I think he spoke very openly about a lot of things.
He was very critical obviously about the west and how the KP had, the Kimberley Process had dealt with the issue of Marange diamonds but he was also clear to point out that some of the people who complained the loudest about the western economic sanctions were those who were also benefitting the most by their continued presence because it allowed them to, as he said, operate in the grey zones .
I think that that was again another very astounding admission and very much in keeping with what PAC and other organizations have found in terms of political elite, predatory elite as Thabo Mbeki called them at the Victoria Conference in November - people who are essentially robbing Zimbabwe of the diamond revenues.
GONDA: So did he or his committee follow the money or find out where these people were putting the revenue?
MARTIN: Not particularly, I think this was one of the things that is always very difficult to find in tracking where these revenues go but certainly the fact that these companies are listed in off-shore jurisdictions such as Mauritius and Hong Kong and other places I think would certainly make it very difficult for people to find out who is really behind those companies. But yes, he was I think very clear in pointing a finger at people in very senior places who were either on the take or were looking the other way to something that should have been part of their mandate.
GONDA: He said there was no accountability and that this needed to be investigated. So what has been the reaction about this report from the KP and also from the civil society organizations, as the KP has certified Zimbabwe's diamonds?
MARTIN: The report that he presented to parliament last week came after the Kimberley Process meeting and I think that a lot of it, even in the same vein as the report that PAC released last November called "Reap what You Sow" dealt a lot with the issue of revenue transparency and missing revenues and unfortunately the Kimberley Process doesn't have any way of addressing this issue of lost revenues. And so it was never really tabled as a discussion point at the KP meeting in Kimberley that followed this workshop in Jo'burg.
I obviously and other civil society people believe very strongly that this idea of lost revenue, of ways in which either predatory elites or people in foreign jurisdictions - in trading centers - who are taking or exploiting vulnerabilities in countries such as Zimbabwe that perhaps have democratic challenges, I think is one that the Kimberley Process and certainly the diamond industry has to take a closer look at.
GONDA: I don't know if you are aware but Zimbabwe's parliament's term of office expires on Saturday June 29th and a new group of legislators will of course be sworn in when the next election is held. But the House of Assembly has been criticized for not really doing much; parliamentary watchdog VERITAS has, over the last few days, been issuing alerts showing how parliament has not functioned or how there's been little work in parliament. For example on Tuesday the House of Assembly only sat for 15 minutes without transacting any business but I understand that Chindori-Chininga's committee was one of the main source of information in the ‘diamond world' on what was happening in Zimbabwe. Do you agree with this and if so how important was this portfolio committee?
MARTIN: I don't think it can be underestimated how important it was. It was something that, in the first report PAC did in 2010. The information the committee led by Mr. Chindori-Chininga revealed incredible things about the fact that the minister (Mpofu) had stacked the boards, the ZMDC-side of the boards and these were apparently joint ventures with his cronies - his sister-in-law, his PA - I mean people with absolutely zero mining experience, who had nothing to really add to the issue or the management of Marange.
The fact that he revealed a lot of the opaqueness of the ownership structures of these companies, the fact that Zimbabwean laws and regulations were routinely overturned at the behest of Minister Mpofu - these were unbelievable findings and I think clearly he was a person who persevered on numerous times to try and witness firsthand what was going on in Marange, to try and gain access for the committee to go to Marange to meet different people, to see for themselves what was going on there. I think that kind of tenaciousness really is something that Zimbabweans should owe him a debt of gratitude and credit for.
I think that clearly going forward, his fellow parliamentarians, irrespective of partisanship should try and persevere his memory by continuing to work with that kind of dedication and selflessness. It was a really, it really was an amazing thing to watch how he led that committee.
GONDA: You said earlier on that the report was four years in the making so what explains the timing of these reports as they could have been released four years ago?
MARTIN: Well I think part of it was he talked a lot about the political challenges he had faced in being able to get the report done. I think he said part of it was the contestation between the executive and the legislation of accessing information and the ability to actually visit Marange. But also part of it, he explained in the introduction to the report, was trying to keep up with the changing developments and how the issues were evolving constantly. So I think that is mostly the reason why but I don't know, I think part of it perhaps might well be his own thinking. We can imagine perhaps some of the other reasons why but those are the two that he's put down on paper.
But I certainly got the sense in meetings that I had with him in early June that I think he recognized that, I think, his work on this issue had certainly ended his political career. He was very open about how Zanu was not going to re-sign his nomination papers to run as a Zanu candidate. I think perhaps this was his sort of parting shot that he wanted to have a very definitive record of what his and the committee's observations had been of this issue before the parliamentary period closed next week.
GONDA: Speculation is rife on social networking forums, especially on Facebook, where people are wondering what could have happened because as you know, Zimbabwe has a history of mysterious deaths - where senior politicians die mysteriously and some of them through road accidents. It's not clear what happened to Mr Chindori-Chininga and we may never know but he was killed in an accident shortly after releasing a damning report last week in advance of elections. So what's your reaction to people who feel that the timing is just so very, very odd?
MARTIN: Yes, well as you say it's more than coincidental. I think there are a lot of factors that are at play. I think that probably Zanu hardliners knew that this report was coming. I think he had been a lot more open and willing to speak out or to speak his mind which was a tradition that I think he always had, which is why he had got himself in trouble in the past.
But I think it does leave one wondering, particularly in the same vein as even people like the death of Solomon Mujuru, the timing of it was so coincidental as to make one wonder about whether there is some kind of other more nefarious hand at play. I think that the other issue too that had also put him offside with a lot of the hardliners was the fact that he had recently been released, or his name had been released from the US sanctions list and I think that probably also might have caused some within Zanu to see him in a suspicious light in order to doubt his bona fides. But it's hard to say but I think that he very clearly was a person who was aware of the fact that he was a marked man. I really got that feeling that the liberty with which he spoke indicated a man that knew that he might have crossed the line.
GONDA: Right and despite doing the right things on the issue of Zimbabwe's natural resources there are others who will say he was still part of the Zanu PF machinery that in 2008 presided over a violent election and that there were serious rights abuses recorded in his area during that period. What do you make of that as a civil society organization that also deals with issues relating to conflict and human rights in Africa?
MARTIN: It's a good question and I think this goes back to one of the initial points I made at the beginning - that there's no doubting a lot of the people who were on sanctions lists deserved to be there and they were there for very good reasons. It might have been because of corrupt behavior or violent behavior. I think that the point that I've found in a lot of my dealings when I've been in Zimbabwe is that Chindori-Chininga was not the only Zanu person who was willing to talk - and just to be honest, I had never sought his opinion for the previous reports largely because I thought he would be quite antagonistic towards us. But certainly there were other people within Zanu who were of the same vein or same mindset and were willing to give information and talk or to present a perspective that I think was helpful to my ability to better understand what was going on in Zimbabwe.
So I think that the way I look at it is that there's no harm in speaking to people who you might disagree with and you might have issues with because of behavior or suspected behavior that they might have been engaged in. But for me it's important that in order to better understand the perspective is that you have to speak to people who you disagree with - and even in discussions I had with him in June, at the beginning of June, I think it was one where there were things that he said that I disagreed with but in a free world you are allowed to have opinions that people would disagree with. That's a healthy part of democracy. I think it's more the fact that you could actually have an open conversation with him about issues and I think that is something that is important to remember.
GONDA: Can you share a bit more about some of those issues that you disagreed with him?
MARTIN: I think that for example on the issue of sanctions, he made some very open comments which I've already alluded to or mentioned but I think the other one where he argued that because the KP had deemed Marange diamonds to be compliant with KP standards that therefore European and US sanctions should be lifted on individuals or entities like the ZMDC - and I would argue that's a little like comparing apples and oranges. There's one thing to argue that you are KP compliant based on a very old and outdated definition of what constitutes a conflict diamond for example, and the issues that we see at play in terms of loss of revenue and things like that. And another very different standard by which you would look at the European and US regimes which were really looking at involvement in other activity unrelated to diamonds - for example election-related violence and the two are not the same.
<< Car crash in March 2012 which Chindori-Chininga survived
GONDA: You mentioned that the committee's report was released after the KP had actually met so now that the report is out there is it going to make any difference in terms of the KP's involvement with Zimbabwe?
MARTIN: I think it's a bit too early to say. I don't think the report has actually been circulated much within the Kimberley Process and I think that it could be one of those issues that gets discussed at a later date which would be the November plenary. But I think that most people would argue that - particularly from a conflict point of view, that there was not really much to add.
The fact that he's listing a lot of or revelations about missing money would indicate that Zimbabwe continues to have a problem with its internal controls which should be a KP issue. But I think that quite frankly the KP lost the political will to do the right thing on Zimbabwe in 2011 when they lifted most of the export limitations on Marange diamonds. So I think that it's something that people will certainly look at but I wouldn't hold my breath that the KP was actually going to do something about it.
GONDA: And a final word Mr Martin?
MARTIN: I think his passing is a great loss for Zimbabwe and I think particularly in terms of shining a very small light on irregularities that continue to happen in Marange. I express my condolences to his family, to Zimbabwe for that because I think he really was a maverick, somebody who had the interests of his country at heart and I think all of us are going to be worse off for his passing.
GONDA: Mr. Alan Martin from Partnership Africa Canada thank you very much for talking to us on the programme Hot Seat.
MARTIN: Thank you.
This transcript first appeared on the SW Radio Africa website.
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