Skip to comments.Zimbabwe -- Mugabe pays off Libya with an embassy
Posted on 08/17/2002 8:53:00 AM PDT by Clive
President Mugabe has run up such colossal debts that he is reported to have handed over the deeds of his country's High Commission in the Strand in London to Colonel Gaddafi of Libya as surety on an oil deal.
The Zimbabwean leader has already parted with hotels, farms seized from their white owners and some of his country's most valuable assets to ensure that Libya does not halt its vital oil supplies.
Libyan officials have warned Colonel Gaddafi that Tamoil, the state-owned oil company, is perilously close to bankruptcy over its dealings with Zimbabwe. Twice in recent months Tamoil has turned off the taps to Harare and only a personal plea to the Colonel from Mr Mugabe has restored the oil after he promised to settle the mounting debt.
Opposition leaders were speculating what else Mr Mugabe could give away, and there was consternation in Harare last night at claims that the prestigious Zimbabwe House now belongs to the Libyans.
Diplomats at the Zimbabwe High Commission denied that the deeds had been transferred to Tripoli. A spokesman said: "It is a claim to discredit our Government. We have no debt with Libya for oil."
Tamoil says that Zimbabwe failed to meet its $90million (£59million) quarterly payment in May after Colonel Gaddafi had agreed last December to supply $360 million worth of oil.
The Foreign Office said that it had not been informed of any change in ownership of the former Rhodesia House. A spokesman said: "It's their property so I suppose they can do what they like with it."
In Zimbabwe, at least 40 white farmers were detained yesterday on allegations of defying seizure and eviction orders that came into force a week ago, the Justice for Agriculture Group said.
Police assistant commissioner Wayne Bvuzijena denied that his headquarters in Harare had issued a countrywide directive to rural stations to round up those who had not yet obeyed orders that expired on August 9.
"The situation over the number detained is changing every ten minutes," said Jenni Williams, spokeswoman for the group that represents the rights of 5,000 white farmers and their 500,000 black workers. Mrs Williams said police action appeared to have been co-ordinated with the aim of making the farmers spend the weekend in cells.
Of the detentions, 23 were in the western Matabeleland region.
The police action coincided with fresh reports that British nationals were being refused entry into Zimbabwe. Four British passport holders, suspected of being journalists posing as tourists, have been deported in the past week.
Details of the alleged High Commission swap in the South African newspaper Business Day came as a former Libyan diplomat was arrested in Harare as "a threat to security and national interests of Zimbabwe". Lawyers for Yousef Murgham, 43, say that he brokered the controversial Tamoil deal with Zimbabwe.
Jonathan Samkange said that his client had been deported amid fears in Libya and Zimbabwe that he was going to reveal more embarrassing details about the financial links between Colonel Gaddafi and Mr Mugabe.
The Government-controlled Herald newspaper in Harare reported that Mr Murgham "was working very closely with British Intelligence and the opposition MDC". He is also accused of trying to blackmail the authorities in Harare "by claiming he had given damaging information on the Government to one local newspaper".
MDC leaders have challenged Mr Mugabe to "open the books" and reveal the extent of his financial links with Tripoli. A Zimbabwean diplomat in Paris has described the growing Libyan deals with his country as "poisonous".
The Times revealed a week ago how Tamoil is supplying 70 per cent of the 800,000 barrels Zimbabwe needs every month. Tamoil has assets worth up to $2billion which may need to be sold to pay debts arising from the deal with Mr Mugabe.
The company has already sold its operations in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia to Agip of Italy. It operates petrol stations in Eastern and Southern Europe and refineries in Switzerland, Germany and Italy.
The company also issues a Tamoil credit card to customers and has sizeable operations in North Africa, including a chain of petrol stations in Egypt.
Because of cashflow problems Tamoil is reported to be likely to pull out of a deal to buy 40 per cent of Egypt's Midor refinery.
Executives from Tamoil, which had offices in Monaco, London, Milan and Geneva, have allegedly been sacked for complaining about the flawed Zimbabwe deal and for leaking details to the media.
Diplomatic sources claim that the Zimbabwean assets taken by Libya include a controlling interest in the Jewel Bank, formerly the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe, and Rainbow Tourist Group, the state travel company.
Colonel Gaddafi has been given a controlling share in the oil pipeline between Zimbabwe and the Mozambique port of Beira. He also has a significant shareholding in Zimbabwe's state-owned energy company Noczim and top hotels.
President Mugabe is understood to have facilitated foreign travel for 10,000 Libyans by giving them Zimbabwean passports. Sources inside Zimbabwe said that more than 1,500 Libyans had been given homes, work permits and jobs in Zimbabwe.
Won't there be a conflict between them and the Israelis in the country who are training Mugabe's thugs how to use the $105 million in armored vehicles the Beit Alfa kibbutz shipped to Zimbabwe this last spring?
Or is business just business?
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