Mnangagwa and Chinamasa in battle to block Mawere from recovering his companies

Senior cabinet ministers led by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa are blocking South African-based business tycoon Mutumwa Mawere from recovering his companies, which were seized by the state in 2004.

Current and former presidents have been dragged into the affair.

Government insiders said Chinamasa is backed by powerful Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa in his bid to prevent Mawere, now a South African citizen, from getting back his companies.

The administrator of Mawere’s firms, Arafas Gwaradzimba – who was appointed by Chinamasa – is part of the group resisting the return of the companies to their legitimate owner.

South Africa-based Mawere lost his companies to the government in 2004, when his SMM Holdings (Pvt) Ltd was placed under reconstruction for indebtedness to the state, amid allegations the tycoon had channelled huge sums of foreign currency out of the country.

Mawere is fighting against heavy odds.

Mnangagwa is a close ally of President Robert Mugabe and heads one of the two main Zanu-PF factions fighting to produce the next party leader and state president.

Chinamasa is a member of the Mnangagwa faction, which is battling with a rival camp, led by retired army commander Solomon Mujuru, for control of the party and to produce a successor to Mugabe.

Insiders said Mawere was going to find it difficult to recover his companies, as the whole Mnangagwa faction was opposed to it and was even prepared to resist orders from Mugabe to release the assets.

Chinamasa had repeatedly voiced his opposition to Mawere getting his companies back without indicating there was an organised group behind him.

Insiders said the whole Mnangagwa faction was opposed to the Mawere move.

Besides Chinamasa, Mnangagwa has the support of half of the Zanu-PF ministers in cabinet. Mnangagwa is regaining lost ground in the party and now commands support from senior officials, as well as that of the army.

Mawere recently came back to Zimbabwe to try to recover his companies, only to find the SMM Holdings business empire in ruins.

This week he appeared before the mines and energy parliamentary portfolio committee, chaired by Zanu-PF MP Edward Chindori-Chininga, as part of the campaign to recover his lucrative assets.

Mawere accused Chinamasa of perpetrating "commercial violence" against him and said the minister’s actions were illegal.

"This was purely commercial violence. It is very unusual for a minister of justice to do this kind of thing," Mawere said.

He said Chinamasa was acting arbitrarily with a small cabal which wants to seize his assets.

The tycoon said even Mugabe was not aware of what they were doing.

"The president is not aware of this," he told MPs on Monday.

"I asked him (Mugabe) if he knew Zimbabwe had such a law (which allows expropriation of companies indebted to the state).

"He said it didn’t have."

Mawere last year met Mugabe at South African President Jacob Zuma’s inauguration to discuss his companies and assets.

He has engaged the services of former South African president Thabo Mbeki and former Zambian leader Kenneth Kaunda to help him out.

Since then Mawere has been battling to regain the companies, which had interests in the mining, petroleum, telecommunications and agricultural sectors.

Talks between Mawere and the government, which commenced in May, collapsed before the latest round of talks and lobbying after Chinamasa, Mnangagwa and Gwaradzimba prevailed over Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono’s earlier advice to Mugabe to return the firms to the tycoon.

The Chinamasa group insisted that Mugabe and Gono should not interfere with court processes as "it will set a bad precedent".

Mawere had several cases against the government in Zimbabwe and abroad.

The collapse of the negotiations prompted Mawere to engage Kaunda and Mbeki to negotiate for the return of the firms, but the Chinamasa camp has vowed that he will not get his assets back. – Times Live