SCHWEPPES Zimbabwe is in preliminary talks with the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) to kick start a multi-million dollar tomato canning plant at Arda Balu Estate in Umguza district that has been lying idle since the early 1980’s, businessdigest has established.
The equipment for the plant was sourced by the late vice-president Joshua Nkomo.
Schweppes MD Charles Msipa told businessdigest on Tuesday that the company was in preliminary talks with Arda to get the project up and running and expects the talks to be concluded by the end of next month.
“We are in preliminary talks with Arda and if all goes well, we expect to have concluded discussions in July,” Msipa said.
“We are still to carry out evaluations and feasibility studies and it is premature to say much at this point.”
Arda board chairman Basil Nyabadza this week said there was still a lot to be done, adding that discussions had not even reached board level.
“We have a management team that will look at issues of cost and evaluations, among other issues, and this has not reached board level,” Nyabadza said.
He said the project was owned by Arda and the Development Trust of Zimbabwe(DTZ) with each having a 50% shareholding.
“I can only speak on behalf of Arda and cannot speak on behalf of the DTZ,” Nyabadza said.
DTZ is a national independent trust whose main thrust is to focus on development at national level and is chaired by Economic Planning minister Simon Khaya Moyo. President Robert Mugabe, who is the patron of the trust, appointed a 15-member board last year.
Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko toured the plant earlier this year and fumed at the Arda board for letting the equipment lie idle.
“Why do we have a board that gets paid for absolutely doing nothing when there is no production at this place?
“These people clearly should not be here, they need to also explain clearly why after such a long time the equipment is lying idle and yet they are supposed to be the leaders,” he said during the tour of the plant.
“It is unfair for someone who had the opportunity to run Arda property to leave it in this state; it is clear sabotage to the development of the people. What kind of board runs this place?”
Machinery that is still to be used after 30 years includes electric motors, storage tanks, piping material, steamers, mixers and various farming implements like tractors, harvesters and sorting machines.
Mphoko said the abandoned equipment was a reversal of government’s land reform programme.
“I do not know what to say. What can be done here? This is such a waste of good machinery and land. President Mugabe is one of Africa’s resented leaders over the land reform project. He is heavily criticised in Western media over the land issue and then someone decides to sit on their job. No, this is worrisome,” he said.