Government confirms River Ranch vehicles were registered in the name of UNDP


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Two vehicles with civilian number plates belonging to River Ranch diamond mine were indeed registered in the name of the United Nations Development Programme.

This was confirmed by the then secretary for Transport and Communications, George Mlilo, in a letter to River Ranch’s lawyers, Costa and Madzonga.

The letter , dated 15 November 2007, says that the two vehicles, AAQ9041 and AAQ9042 were registered in the name of the UNDP due to incompetence by Central Vehicle Registry staff.

It blames the error on a student who was on attachment and her senior who verified the data she had entered.

The vehicles in question have been at the centre of diamond smuggling allegations from the mine to South Africa. The allegations are that the vehicles were not subject to search at the border posts and so were the drivers because they had UNDP permits.

The UNDP got involved with River Ranch through African Management Services Company (AMSCO) a company which it jointly owns with the International Finance Corporation, the commercial arm of the World Bank.

AMSCO helps African companies to build their capacities and seconded five managers to River Ranch.

River Ranch is owned by Saudi Arabian billionaire, Adel Aujan and Kupukile Resources where former army commander Solomon Mujuru and former legislator Tirivanhu Mudariki are major shareholders.

The contract ended in July 2007.

The UNDP has vehemently denied any link to the smuggling. It has also insisted that vehicles with civilian number plates could not have been registered in its name because it has its on technical cooperation designated number.

The letter from Mlilo seems to be part of the evidence that was given to special investigator Frank Dutton, a former South African police officer, who was hired by the UNDP headquarters to look into the operations of the UNDP office in Harare from July to December last year.

Dutton submitted his report at the end of January but the UNDP has refused to release the report to the public.

In a short summary it released, the UNDP said the vehicles registered in its name were “fraudulently registered” but it does not say who committed the fraud.

Stephane Dujarric, the Communications Director at the UNDP headquarters in New York, today reiterated that the investigation had found that the vehicles “were fraudulently registered with Zimbabwean authorities under UNDP’s name by an unknown individual.”

“As for who committed this fraud, that is for Zimbabwe’s national authority to answer,” he added.

From Mlilo’s letter, the UNDP cannot claim to be totally innocent because Mlilo says from the start applications for the registration of the two vehicles were not in order. “They both depicted the UNDP and River Ranch Mine as the joint applicants and by extension, the proposed registered owners for the two motor vehicles.”

The Insider has not been able to get copies of the critical CVR4 forms which would show the details of the applications. The registration books for both cars do not also show who the previous owners were or the previous registration numbers of the vehicles though they show that the vehicles were imported from Japan.

Mlilo says Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) processing officers at Beitbridge issued registration books in the name of River Ranch but when the applications were sent to the Central Vehicle Registry, the data capturer, Mercy Kuliwa, a student on attachment “unnecessarily restricted herself” to what was on the “incorrectly completed” application form and put the UNDP as the registered owner.

The data capture office verifier, Victor Mutswangwa “incorrectly verified and passed” the data as being correct.

The Insider was not able to trace either Kuliwa or Mutswangwa to get their side of the story. It could also not get comment from Mlilo as he is no longer with the ministry.

Mlilo said his office had taken the necessary corrective steps, including reprimanding the incompetent staff and amending the incorrect data entries.

Sources said they could not understand how the ministry could have amended registration details of the vehicles as AAQ9041 was stolen in South Africa on 26 October 2006 and has not been recovered.

South African police have confirmed receiving the report of the theft which was made by Lloyd Das, one of the employees seconded to River Ranch by AMSCO. Das was the security chief at River Ranch and had UNDP accreditation.

(77 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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