HomeLettersGideon Gono's involvement cries for probe

Gideon Gono’s involvement cries for probe

THE fertiliser importation saga refers.


I did a company profile search on the Internet on the following South African news sites: www.google.co.zw; www.businessday.co.za; www.busrep.co.za; www.mg.co.za; www.financialmail.co.za and www.io

l.co.za on the South African fertiliser supplying company Intshona Agriculture Products.


www.iol.co.za publishes stories from 14 South African newspapers under the Independent News & Media stable. The search yielded nothing about the company except a story attributed to the RBZ governor published on June 28 by www.iol.co.za sourced from Reuter news agency.


Given the appetite the South Africans have for media coverage whenever an empowerment deal is sealed, it is surprising that the so-called Intshona Agriculture Products escaped the attention of the journalists there.


The Sunday Mirror claimed that Intshona Agriculture Products is a Black Economic Empowerment (Bee) company. If this is true, how would it escape the attention of the media in South Africa?


An online news item on June 29 alleged that Intshona executive director is a lady called Dr Crista van Louw. A similar Internet search about her produced no results!


There is a website of a company called Intshona www.intshona.com that supplies “All Seasons™ UHT Long Life Full Cream Milk”, whose contact person is a Lambertus Louw. The website has no other details except a Malmesbury, Western Cape telefax number, +27 22 482 2858.


An online name search on the South African Companies Registration Office (Sacro) website: www.cipro.co.za/registration_forms/reg_forms.asp reveals that Intshona Agriculture Products is a company related to Intshona Milk Products and only registered on April 5 2005. Its enterprise number is 2005/010852/07.


Can someone go to South Africa and check what can be found at AM Trust Building, 5
Church Street, Malmesbury, Western Cape, which is the company’s registered business address. One shudders to think that a company registered in April 2005 has a manufacturing capacity. We are then forced to assume that Intshona Agriculture Products is an agricultural commodity broker, just like Rarefield Investments (Pvt) Ltd, whose major shareholder and CEO is Walter Mzembi, the MP for Masvingo South. Mzembi chairs the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands, Land Reform, Resettlement and Agriculture and was present when the fertiliser deal was unveiled, posing a serious conflict of interest.


On page 10, in the November 11 press statement, the RBZ governor said about this company: “In the case of Intshona, who are one of the contractors that have unfortunately been labelled as fly-by-night brief-case traders…Contrary to newspaper reports that Intshona was a small operation of no fixed abode, Intshona are instead a formidable force to reckon with, not only regionally but also internationally.”


Can he repeat this statement with such a startling exposure about the supplier?


It is also surprising that such a purportedly high-level deal escaped the attention of the online Nedbank Media Centre in which its head of structured corporate finance, a fictitious Mr Dean Lavits, is said to have been involved — www.nedbank.co.za. This is an institution that collects and places on its official website any media article mentioning its name and activities.


If this was a rightful responsibility of a government (which it is not) to import fertiliser for resale, someone must account to the nation how the Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono is found in the thick of things beyond allocating foreign currency.


He and the Ministry of Agriculture want to destroy our own local fertiliser companies — Sable Chemicals, Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company (ZFC) and Windmill indirectly after their earlier efforts failed to create a monopoly by nationalising them. How much foreign currency did they collectively require to recover the production capacity?


In the same press statement the governor said: “At current structures, the fertiliser industry is overly concentrated in a web of a few intertwined owners, which breeds room for collusive behaviour, at the detriment of the country’s agricultural sector. There is, therefore need for these complex ownership structures to be simplified in a manner that stresses on productive efficiency.”


We should interrogate this remark by showing the owners of the three fertiliser companies in Zimbabwe. According to the Privatisation Agency of Zimbabwe (PAZ) website and the MBendi online directory of organisations, Chemplex, the wholly-owned subsidiary Zimbabwe Phosphate Industries Ltd (Zimphos) owns, through a combination of direct and indirect holdings, 50% of ZFC Ltd.


Shareholding thus consists of Chemplex Corporation (50%), TA Holdings (22,5%) and Norsk Hydro, a Norwegian conglomerate (27,5%) and Yara Zimbabwe, a subsidiary of Yara, another Norwegian multinational.


ZFC has two fertiliser plants and is the largest fertiliser manufacturer in Zimbabwe.


Through a 50% equity stake in Fertiliser Holdings Ltd and a 26% stake in Chemical & Gas Holdings (Pvt) Ltd, Chemplex has a strong position in Sable Chemicals Industries, which is the sole Zimbabwe manufacturer of ammonium nitrate. ZFC is the largest customer.


The government holds 36% equity in Sable. Diversified local conglomerate TA Holdings is also a key shareholder in Sable. Norwegian firm Yara, which wholly-owns Windmill, is also an investor in Sable Chemicals with 11% of the shares.


From these shareholding details, two of the fertiliser companies can be considered to be very local. Is Gono alleging “sabotage”? Is this not simply malicious? Why is he showing resentment towards foreign shareholders in two of the companies yet he is part of the national efforts to bring in foreign direct investment?


The fertiliser issue is so embarrassing and scandalous to say the least. We have had similar incidents where the RBZ is said to have been heavily involved.


Let’s revisit the procurement of fuel, grain, wheat, agro-chemicals and agricultural equipment. Who are the parties involved, who can tabulate the step-by-step process involved and to what extent was the procurement rule book flouted or followed? Icho!



G Mpofu,


Harare.

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