Zimbabwe’s parliament said Monday former president Robert Mugabe faces jail time if he fails to appear before a committee investigating the alleged embezzlement of $15 billion in diamond revenues.
Members of the parliament’s Mines and Energy Committee waited in vain for more than an hour for Mugabe to appear. This is the second time the 94-year-old former Zimbabwean leader has failed to show up for a committee hearing.
Committee chairman Temba Mliswa said lawmakers are running out of patience. They are writing him a final letter to remind him that he will be summoned.
“And we hope we are not getting to that stage of summoning a former president,” he said. “We hope this last letter will be something he will appreciate. If he does not attend, he will be in contempt, and being in contempt, there [are] many results. Let me remind you that the former and late MP Roy Bennett was sent to prison by parliament. So, let’s be mindful of the powers the parliament has.”
The committee is investigating alleged corruption in the country’s diamond mining industry.In 2016, Mugabe said Zimbabwe had lost $15 billion from embezzlement.
Diamonds were discovered in eastern Zimbabwe in 2006 and initially raised hopes they would help turn around the country’s ailing economy. But little diamond revenue found its way into the average citizen’s pocket or the government’s treasury.
While Mugabe’s government accused mining companies of not declaring their actual profits, Global Witness and other corruption watchdogs expressed concern over abuses and mismanagement in the diamond sector.
Global Witness accused state security agencies and Mugabe’s political allies of siphoning off the profits from diamond mining — and of selling the precious stones themselves and keeping all the proceeds.
Mugabe resigned in November 2017 after giving in to military-led pressure and has not been in public since then. He only addressed a few journalists earlier this year, accusing his former deputy and successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, of deposing him through a coup.