MINES Minister Winston Chitando is caught up in a controversial saga with a local businessman Yakub Ibrahim Mahomed who is accusing the senior government official of seizing eight “juicy” gold rich mining claims in Mberengwa, Midlands province.
The minister is also being accused of mining the gold claims while knowing there was an ongoing dispute regarding ownership.
Chitando is further accused of influencing mines secretary Onesimo Moyo, and Nelson Munyanduri, the Midlands provincial mining director, for the two government officials to ignore Mahomed’s complaints.
The complainant said he had conducted investigations which showed that Chitando’s company, Golden Reef Mining had illegally taken over his claims.
The dispute has since spilled into the High Court where Mahomed has made an application seeking the cancellation of a special grant issued by the mines minister favouring the Golden Reef.
He also wants the forfeiture notices of his claims cancelled.
Mahomed said the forfeited mining claims should be declared his assets, and be returned to his company, Anesu Gold, which has been cited as the applicant in the court papers.
In the court application, Moyo and Munyanduri are cited as the first and second respondents respectively.
The embattled businessman also wants Chitando’s Golden Reef to pay him for the gold it has mined from the disputed mining claims.
In his court papers, Mahomed said he was the registered owner of the gold claims also referred to as Mangoro Claims (Ipanema).
The mining claims were previously owned and registered in the name of Start Mining Services, but belonged to Mahomed.
He told the court the certificates of registration of the claims are renewed periodically, which also involves the payment of inspection fees.
At the end of 2018, a loan facility of US$6,4 million was approved by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) owned Fidelity Printers and Refiners, with his company, Anesu Gold being the collateral for the loan. The loan was to finance mining operations at the Mberengwa site.
This loan had the approval of the RBZ governor John Mangudya, and finance ministry secretary George Guvamatanga.
“Fidelity (Printers) gave the facility on the strength of clean and unencumbered mining claims following due diligence process,” the businessman said.
In his founding affidavit filed on behalf of Anesu Gold, Mahomed said in January 2019, the registration certificates were handed over to Fidelity Printers with specific instructions to cover all outstanding inspection fees from the loan facility.
A loan was released with full knowledge of all parties and the fees were paid to the mines ministry and receipted in Gweru by Munyanduri.
“Then it came to pass that at some stage the applicant received a bombshell that some of the mining claims had been forfeited and that actually, a special grant No. 7321 had been issued over the forfeited mining claims. On further investigations, I found out that two notices of forfeiture had been issued,” said Mahomed.
He told the court the two notices were published by sticking them on the notice board at the mines ministry head office in Harare, and Munyanduri’s offices in Gweru.
The notices were never served on Mahomed.
“I never saw, let alone received the notices and, therefore, the applicant was not aware of the notices until after the event. Otherwise I, on behalf of the applicant would have taken steps to protect the applicant’s rights and interests in the mining claims,” said Mahomed.
“It is more proper to set out the unfolding of events to show that behind the alleged forfeiture of the mining claims stands the dark shadows of gigantic Uncle Tom called fraud and corruption,” Mahomed complained.
According to the court papers, Anesu Gold holds 70% of the shares in Start Mining Services and Mberengwa Enterprises holds 30%.
Mahomed’s founding affidavit shows that Anesu Gold eventually purchased Mberengwa Enterprises’ 30% shareholding making it a 100% shareholder of the mining claims.
Court papers also show that in 2012 Chitando was approached by Rugare Gumbo who owned the 30% in an attempt to lure him to invest in the claims, but the minister declined the offer. Gumbo is a former Zanu PF national spokesperson.
Mahomed claims he also once engaged businessman Shingi Mutasa and Chitando before he was appointed mines minister. Chitando flew to the Mberengwa gold claims for an inspection, but Mutasa failed to turn up.
He said it was when Chitando gathered information of the “juicy areas” of the mining claims that he hatched a plan to boot Mohamed out.
The businessman said he continued carrying out due diligence regarding mining processes, paying inspection fees, which were received by the mines ministry, but was never told about the forfeiture.
Before the forfeiture, the mining claims were 128 in total.
Mahomed said he had secured an Australian investor and wanted the courts to help him for the deal to be transparent.
He went on to say Golden Reef belongs to Chitando as his findings shows the minister is one of the directors through his company Windev Investments.
“The third respondent (Golden Reef) has taken occupation, possession or control of the eight forfeited mining claims, and is busy mining there, ignoring the fact that there is a dispute between the parties herein. It is making the hay while the sun shines in its direction,” Mahomed said adding he prayed for the special grant to be cancelled.
The matter is yet to be heard.