River Ranch has intensified its efforts to silence The Insider over allegations that the company which runs a diamond mine near Beitbridge allegedly used vehicles registered in the name of the United Nations Development Programme to smuggle diamonds into South Africa.
It filed a complaint with the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe on April 15, claiming that an article published by The Insider on March 17 entitled: UNDP admits vehicles registered in its name were used to smuggle diamonds was highly defamatory and contained statements which were false.
The complaint, though initially raised by the company consultant George Smith was filed by the newly appointed corporate affairs executive Phinius Mushoriwa. The complaint did not pin-point any single statement which it claimed was false.
Mushoriwa said his company had taken the case to the VMCZ because of the “delays and expenses involved” in instituting an action for damages.
George Smith is, however, a member of the VMCZ board and sits on the Complaints Committee but he recused himself from hearing the complaint.
Mushoriwa wrote The Insider another letter on May 12, saying his company would lodge another complaint with the VCMZ over an article entitled: Did Bush try to topple Mugabe?
He said the article “reflects very badly on your professionalism and integrity. You say that AMSCO was bailing out River Ranch which is a company owned by Solomon Mujuru. That is not true. AMSCO did not bail out River Ranch and the company is not owned by General Mujuru.”
Mujuru is one of the directors of River Ranch together with Adel Aujan, Kamal Abdallah, George Kantsouris, Trivanhu Mudariki and Mohamed Mulla. Mujuru initially owned 20 percent of the company.
“You go on to say that police ordered Bubye Minerals to leave the mine and that “armed police” gave the Farquhars hours to leave the mine. Mr. Kantsouris visited the mine with a legal practitioner, Mr. Costa, in April 2004 and advised, Mr. Farquhar, who happened to be at the mine, that the directors of River Ranch had terminated the agreement that Bubye Minerals had entered into with Mr. Bailey, the liquidator of River Ranch, to mine the dumps. Bubye Minerals had stopped mining the dumps in 2001. Mr. Farquhar voluntarily left the mine. There were no police, armed or unarmed, involved. Adele Farquhar was not at the mine,” Mushoriwa went on.
Affidavits filed in various cases involving River Ranch show that armed police indeed went to the mine. Names of the officers involved and who instructed them will be disclosed if River Ranch takes the matter to court.
Mushoriwa went to say: “Your suggestion that the “bail out” was a move by the Bush administration to try to topple Mugabe from within by helping Mujuru so that his wife could take over the presidency is absurd and ridiculous.”
He added: “In the article you keep repeating that AMSCO was bailing out River Ranch. That is not true. AMSCO never “bailed out” River Ranch. George Kantsouris is better qualified to be what you call “an AMSCO expert”. River Ranch is allowed to sell the diamond it produces. It has already done so. At one time the MMCZ did try to prevent River Ranch from selling its diamonds, but it had no legal basis to do so. The Minister of Mines accepted that River Ranch was and still is the legal holder of the Special Grant which entitles it to mine diamonds and sell what it producers.”
African Management Services Company chief executive at the time of the contract, Ayisi Makatiani clearly stated in a letter which The Insider has that, his company had seconded five managers to assist the mine. This was “in response to a request by the current owners of the mine for assistance in resuscitating the operations of the mine.”
Makatiani also wrote: “The current owners of the mine took over ownership in 2004 and, with AMSCO’s help, have managed to turn it around into a commercially viable operation.”
“We are proud of what we have achieved at the mine so far and believe that our intervention at the mine is helping to create jobs, reduce poverty and improve the livelihoods of Zimbabweans within the Beitbridge community,” Makatiani concluded.
As for the suitability of George Kantsouris, evidence led in court in the trial of Bubye Minerals directors, who were being accused by River Ranch of stealing company equipment, clearly showed that he did not have any professional qualifications.
In his judgment in which he acquitted the directors of stealing property from the mine, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu described Kantsouris as a “dubious character whose evidence had no ring of truth and his status and right to work in Zimbabwe as a foreigner was questionable.”
In a letter to The Insider Smith, a former judge, described Bhunu’s conclusions as “misguided”.
The Insider has advised River Ranch to take its case to a court of law because the procedure with the VMCZ complaints committee does not allow for a formal hearing which the parties can attend.
It has also queried why River Ranch appears to be speaking on behalf of the UNDP and AMSCO when the two organisations have their official spokespersons who The Insider has been corresponding with.
The chase is on. Let.those with skeletons in their cupboards quake with fright.The entire zimbabwe political elite is more concerned with creating unbudgeted jobs for each other than solving the food, health, education and national infrascture needs. You appear from your recent writings to have braced yourself for an inevitable show down.As the saying goes‚ it is not the size of the dog but the fight in the dog that counts. You have the fight. May the showdown commence.- T.H.Mudzingwa (21 May)