TRANSPORT and Infrastructural Development Minister, Obert Mpofu (pictured), is under renewed pressure to reveal his source of wealth after firebrand ZANU-PF Hurungwe West Member of Parliament, Temba Mliswa, repeated calls at a public forum for the Umguza legislator to come clean on how he came to be one of Zimbabwe’s wealthiest.
Although not passing a verdict on the source of Mpofu’s wealth, Mliswa said the fact that some of his riches were accumulated when the former was the minister of mines, which ministry is currently in the eye of the storm for the opaque handling of revenue from Marange diamonds, it was only proper for him to explain his source of wealth.
“Is it a coincidence that he made money when he was minister of mines and diamonds have gone missing? Answer! That also tarnishes the image of the party. I am ZANU-PF,” Mliswa said, while contributing to debate at a Southern African Political Economy Series Trust policy dialogue forum held in Harare last week.
A sharp-tongued politician, Mli-swa first took Mpofu to task during a Parliamentary debate early this month when he demanded that all government ministers must declare their assets before assuming office and quit government if they want to venture into business.
The lawmaker then quarried Mpofu’s acquisition of a financial institution under the prevailing harsh economic conditions that have seen many companies closing shop, condemning thousands of employees onto the streets.
Mpofu acquired nearly 100 percent shareholding in Allied Bank, previously known as the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group, about two years ago when one of his investment vehicles, Trebo and Khays (Private) Limited, injected over US$20 million to rescue the struggling bank. Trebo and Khays also owns York House in Bulawayo, purchased several years ago from Old Mutual.
Apart from owning Allied Bank, Mpofu is also invested in a cross-section of industries, among them agriculture, where he operates a thriving cattle ranch. He is also into the security sector, transport, property, tourism and hospitality as well as the print media, through The Zimbabwe Mail. He is the brains behind Khanondo Safaris and Tours (Private) Limited, which holds hunting concessions and tour operations worth millions of United States dollars.
In the past, no ZANU-PF member has questioned Mpofu’s the source of his wealth. Mliswa has therefore broken ranks with his colleagues in the ruling party who would rather do so in private conversations for fear of reprisals.
Perhaps the most high-profile person to ask Mpofu to account for his wealth has been former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) who raised the issue last year after the ZANU-PF secretary for economic affairs had splashed on Allied Bank.
But Mpofu found support from an unlikely quarter in the form of Gift Chimanikire, a senior official in the former premier’s party who said after working with Mpofu at the mines ministry, where he was his deputy, he learnt that the Umguza Member of Parliament had in fact worked hard for the vast empire he owns.
But that has done little to stop some local and international organisations from raising questions about Mpofu’s source of wealth especially in the wake of alleged looting of diamonds from the controversial Marange diamond fields although no evidence has ever been produced. Early this year, Mpofu opened up about the source of his riches. He said hardworking people were often accused of stealing while the lazy ones were glorified.
Mpofu has previously referred to himself as a strategic investor who took risks by acquiring loans from banks to start up his thriving business empire. He said he started off as a paprika farmer and the project generated him a lot of foreign currency, which he used to buy a farm and cattle to feed for resale.
“We started selling cattle and now I have many cattle. We sell 100 cattle per week. Go to CSC (Cold Storage Company) and you will see where we steal money. Let us compete with love and not jealousy,” the minister chuckled.
According to Wikipedia, it is believed that Mpofu was one of the earliest ZIPRA guerillas to be trained to fight in the liberation struggle way back in the 1960s. Mpofu has previously served as minister of mines, minister of industry and international trade and governor for Matabeleland North.
His major blemish in government was the role he played around 2007 when he led the freeze of basic commodities in Zimbabwe which contributed to the collapse of industry and commerce.