President Robert Mugabe this week threatened British American Tobacco Zimbabwe Holdings Limited with unspecified action amid concerns the multinational was behind the mysterious disappearance of its competitor Savanna Tobacco‘s delivery trucks.
Report by Taurai Mangudhla
In his keynote address at the just ended inaugural two-day Economic Empowerment Conference, Mugabe said he had during his routine weekly intelligence meetings received “authentic” reports linking the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed cigarette maker to the racketeering.
He said the matter was now before the police, and threatened BATZ with unspecified action. “It’s a huge case and it might affect you very soon,” Mugabe said, adding the company had tried to bribe its way out of conviction.
“I hear money was being paid to the police so that they do not do their jobs well and this appears authentic. These are briefings we hear at our intelligence meetings every week and if this is what you are doing in order to kill competition somebody will answer to it,” Mugabe said sternly. “I hope none of you ( management) know anything about such activities of a nature that is untoward towards Savanna in that detrimental way.”
Earlier this month businessdigest reported BATZ was allegedly spying on its competitors and had adopted an industrial espionage strategy a few years ago, according to an internal document.
Its competitors allege possible sabotage after none of BATZ’s products were hi-jacked en route to South Africa in a R100 million heist.
Meanwhile, BATZ used the empowerment conference to officially hand over a 20% stake to Zimbabwean locals in compliance with the Indigenisation Act. The company gave a 10% shareholding to a newly established employee share ownership scheme and another 10% to a Tobacco Empowerment Trust.
The two stakes, equalling about 4 million shares, are worth a combined US$20 million. Prior to the recent transaction, the company was indigenised 26%. The remaining stake will be retained by existing indigenous shareholders.
BATZ also donated six tractors to be allocated to six of the country’s major tobacco producing provinces and 50 laptops towards Mugabe’s presidential computerisation programme.