By Robert Tapfumaneyi
Chaos reigned in Parliament Thursday after cabinet minister Obert Mpofu refused to answer questions regarding the claimed theft of $15 billion in revenues due to government from diamond mining at Marange.
Mpofu was appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy. He was mines minister when, according to former president Robert Mugabe, the billions were looted.
The minister however, refused to answer questions over the matter if independent Norton MP Temba Mliswa continued to chair proceedings.
He said Mliswa was compromised, claiming that the MP once drove over 600km to his home to discuss “diamonds and other issues”, in addition to repeatedly criticising him in the media.
Mpofu, now home affairs minister, further told MPs that he could not speak on another minister cabinet brief.
“I am a former minister, and there is a (new) minister in that ministry; I was the minister between 2008 -2013,” he said.
“And that there was a committee similar to this one where I was subjected to similar questioning and they were professional.
“I am not minister of mines, and I don’t know which precedence has been set where former ministers are subjected to operations which they experienced when they were in those ministries.”
He added, “I have no mandate to speak for the ministry of mines; I cannot speak for a ministry that I was in five years ago and nothing can force me to do that.
“I have been abused by you, chairman (Mliswa), in public but I have never said anything.”
When reminded that the committee was not prepared to listen to their personal gripes, Mpofu retorted that he had “vast experience with parliamentary proceedings”.
“You can say whatever you want, I have been in Parliament since 1987, and I know my obligation.
“I have been called names by the chairman but, after that, he nicodemously comes to my house; in the cover of night he drives all the way to my house to talk about these things.
“Gentlemen, we are not children here, and I am (also) a Member of Parliament.
An angry Mliswa said he had only been to Mpofu’s house once when he was Zanu PF chairperson for Mashonaland West province.
He challenged the minister; “Can you tell the House (parliament) what I came to do and talk to you about at your house?
“I drove to your house to talk about the suspension of Didymus Mutasa when I was the Zanu PF Mashonaland west provincial chairperson.
Mpofu stood his ground, saying; “… as longs as he (Mliswa) is sitting in front of me presiding over these things, I will not cooperate.”
He later asked for a two-minute adjournment to go and wash his hands. Returning, he was again emphatic. “I will not speak on deliberations chaired by you,” he said.
“You (Mliswa) visited my house and even implicated the Speak of Parliament (Jacob Mudenda) and I will not speak.”
Efforts by other MPs persuade the minister to answer questions proved fruitless. He told them that if they did not understand English he was prepared to speak in vernacular, so they could understand he “was not going to speak”.