The protracted ownership wrangle of Lenox Gold Mine in Mashava, Masvingo Province, has taken a new twist after police launched fresh investigations into how the local firm Tambanashe Enterprises lost control of the company, sources have revealed.
This follows a controversial takeover of the gold mine by a South African miner, Mr Leslie Starlin through his company Two Flags, from Tambanashe some few years ago.
According to sources close to the latest development, the matter seems to be a huge case of corruption involving several senior officials in Government.
“Investigators are keen to understand what transpired,” said a source who requested not to be named because the matter is sensitive.
“It seems a lot of parties are involved in this potential scam. It involves fraudulent issuance of claims certificates to Two Flags by the Ministry of Mines and the eviction of Tambanashe Enterprise. The investigators need to ascertain claims that Ruby Auctioneers, which was appointed by the court Sherriff to dispose of some of the assets to repay money owed to a local bank by Tambanashe ended up involved into the operations of the mine as well as allegations of name dropping, which were probably meant to create an impression that some influential people were behind the takeover.”
No official comment could be obtained from Tambanashe Enterprises by the time of going to print yesterday.
Minister of Mines and Mining Development Winston Chitando promised to call back but had not done so by the time of going to press.
Lenox Mine used to be owned by Canadian firm, Reedbuck Resources, which left around 2000. The company also operated mines in Mberengwa, Shurugwi and Kwekwe. Ernst and Young was appointed the liquidator of Lenox. Liquidator Mr Robert McIndoe gave a tribute agreement to Esigodini firm Knobbythorns for three years with an option to purchase. Knobbythorns was owned by the late miner Mr Mike Stone, a friend to Mr Starlin.
Mr Stone asked Mr Starlin to operate the mine but at the end of three years, Mr Starlin is understood to have entered into a secret arrangement with the liquidator to buy Lenox Gold Mine through his company Two Flags without Mr Stone’s knowledge. Irked by Mr Starlin’s behaviour, Mr Stone alerted the Government of asset stripping and illicit gold trade activity at Lenox Mine leading to the former being ejected. The Government, however, allowed Knobbythorns to partner Larmona, a local consortium owned by indigenous people and South African investors, which formed Tambanashe.
Tambanashe borrowed money from ZB Bank and pledged mining claims as collateral. This was authorised by former Ministry of Mines Permanent Secretary Prof Francis Gudyanga. The claims remain held by ZB Bank, through the layers Sawyer and Mkushi Legal Practitioners.
In 2014, Mr Starlin using Two Flags sued the Ministry of Mines demanding Lennox ownership. The ministry did not challenge the suit, resulting in a default judgment.
“The Ministry of Mines also failed to appeal and instead went on to enter a jointer with Two Flags against Tambanashe despite the former having sued them,” said one source.
“The ministry went on to suggest Lennox mine claims had been lost and went on to issue duplicate certificates to Two Flags, which had not applied.”
“Tambanashe was suddenly notified of the ministry’s intention to cancel certificates after the issuance of said duplicate certificates to Two Flags — in violation of the law, which requires that claim holder must be given chance to object and defend before cancellation. After Tambanashe was given a notice to vacate the mine, it reportedly confronted former Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa with proof they were the rightful owners of the mine. Mr Chidhakwa was advised of the “false grounds of need to cancel certificates by Tambanashe and went quiet to this day as he was now aware certificates of the mine were under custody of ZB lawyers Sawyer and Mkushi.”
“Two Flags was now being fronted by one Hove and Shumba of Ruby Auctioneers. Two Flags went on to operate an illegal militia to terrorise and illegally evict mine workers,” sources said.
The group is alleged to have sold property of the mine such as cement, mine rails and equipment.
Mine workers who resisted the illegal occupation had their houses damaged and evicted. Managers of Tambanashe were also arrested and abused while filing their complaints.
“Gudyanga’s case is now before the courts for corruption and abuse of office while Mr Starlin and his team are under active police investigation as we speak,” sources said.