Govt misleads nation over CSC deal

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GOVERNMENT misled the nation when it announced that a “British beef giant” Boustead Private Limited would pump US$130 million towards revival of the Cold Storage Company (CSC).

Nkululeko Sibanda/Cloudine Matola/Tinashe Kairiza

Last month, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister Monica Mutsvangwa said during a post-cabinet press briefing that: “Cabinet was informed by Finance and Economic Development minister Professor Mthuli Ncube that the CSC is to be revitalised through a concession agreement under Rehabilitate, Operate and Transfer terms.

Boustead would raise and invest a minimum of US$130 million into CSC over five years.”

It has, however, emerged the purported beef processing behemoth is only an agriculture start-up company with a small balance sheet.

The government announced last month that the firm, would assume control over moribund meat processing parastatal facilities for 25 years, in the multi-million-dollar deal.

However, checks have shown government misled the public on the CSC deal. Boustead (Pvt) Ltd is not a UK company.

Boustead (Pvt) Ltd is a local start-up owned by Nick Havercroft and only commenced operations in 2013. The local firm operates under registration number 4852/2013 as recorded by the Companies Registry.

In the UK, there is Boustead Agriculture, registered under number 08154075 and is domiciled at 78-80 St John Street, London, England, EC1M 4JN. It was only set up by Boustead (Pvt) Ltd founders to raise money for the CSC deal.

According to details filed at the Companies House gleaned by the Zimbabwe Independent, Boustead (Pvt) Ltd, whose interest is “growing of vegetables and melons, roots and tubers and mixed farming”, has a paltry £10 000 (US$12 674) in its books of accounts, raising doubt around its capability to mobilise millions of dollars required to resuscitate the debt ridden meat processing state enterprise.

As recorded by the Companies House, Boustead (Pvt) Ltd only had a capital net worth of US$12 674 from 2013 to 2016 with Nicholas Havercroft, Gavin Havercroft, Nicholas Lee and Harald Torbjorn Gabriel Jakob Kinde registered as active directors.

In an interview with the Independent, Havercroft declined to disclose the identity of his funders set to inject fresh capital into CSC, despite government’s claims that the investors are cash-rich and were waiting in the wings to pump over US$100 million into the embattled parastatal.

“I am unable to share with you and your readers these investors. I have reason why I cannot do that. It has taken me about 20 years to build my base of investors and I need to protect them,” Havecroft told the Independent last week. “Government officials seized with this matter know the investors and who they are. If I dare say who these investors are, I know there would be problems of people bombarding them with e-mails and phone calls asking them to consider two-page proposals. I will not be at such liberty to reveal those investors at the moment.”

However, at the time of going to print, the shareholding structure as recorded by the Companies House remained unchanged, with the Havercrofts holding a controlling stake in the entity. Havercroft, a British national, holds “over 25% shareholding in the firm but not more than 50% shares”, details filed by the Companies House read.

As a strategy to raise fresh capital to revive CSC, Havercroft said his firm had decided to register in the UK to avoid Zimbabwe’s hostile investment climate.

“For us to be able to raise money for CSC, we set up the company, Boustead Agriculture in the United Kingdom. We opened bank accounts and had operating addresses there. It was not going to be easy to raise money when we were operating in Zimbabwe given the country perception that investors have on Zimbabwe and its state of affairs,” he said.

Under the deal as spelt out by government, Boustead would assume control over the ranches and meat processing facilities run by CSC spread across the country.

The fledgling enterprise will also take over and manage CSC’s distribution centres and residential properties in Harare, Gweru and Mutare for the same period.

In the past, government has announced that it has secured multi-billion dollar investment deals under the mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ which to date have not yielded fruit.

In April 2018, the Independent exclusively revealed a dodgy deal were President Emmerson Mnangagwa parcelled vast platinum claims to his associate Lucas Pourolis through his Karo Resources investment vehicle to set up a refinery plant in a deal government said was worth US$4,2 billion with potential to create over 100 000 jobs.

However, Bobby Morse a senior partner at Tharisa Plc, a sister company of Karo Resources, during an interview with the Independent dismissed the US$4,2 billion figure, saying the investment amount was plucked from thin air by government.

In June last year, Mnangagwa’s administration also announced another controversial US$5,2 billion projects with South African outfit Nkosikhona Holdings to transform coal into fuel in the Zambezi Basin. Nothing has yet materialised under the so called multi-billion-dollar deal, just like many other similar deals.

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