By Albert Nxumalo
Employees of beef processor Cold Storage Commission (CSC) have appealed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to step in and stop the alleged stripping of company assets by the new investor.
The CSC employees accuse the company’s United Kingdom based investor Boustead Beed (Pvt) of being fraudsters with no financial capacity to revive the company claiming they want to grab the company assets and other property.
In March 2019, the government signed an agreement for a joint venture lease with the UK-based investor for a period of 25 years.
As part of the deal, Boustead Beef had pledged to pour in US$400 million over the next five years to revive the struggling company.
The company “temporarily” shut its doors between October 1 to January 1, 2020 to allegedly pave way for retooling and refurbishment but its employees said the closure period was used to strip the company.
“There is need for an independent audit up to cut off point – to establish the state of affairs prior to 22 February 2019, the date on which Boustead took over as per the LJFCP. Assets verification and documentation is important to safeguard them from plunder through stripping,” reads in part a lengthy petition by the CSC employees seen by CITE.
“We suspect that after firing the CSC managers, Boustead Beef seeks to destroy all institutional memory of the company thereby create a conducive climate to plunder the properties without a trace. In our view, government must ensure it keeps an audited record of all assets transferred to Boustead Beef in the LJFCP.
“Your Excellency, we therefore request Your Office in the land to relook into the Boustead Beef deal with a view to: Safeguard the vast national assets now in the hands of a known crook trading as Boustead Beef through ordering a proper documented and audited handover takeover. Crooks thrive where chaos reigns…”
Added the workers, “We number over 500 and have outstanding salaries owed by the company (CSC). Efforts to get clarity on a number of issues have not been fruitful. Collective efforts to engage Boustead Beef on Friday 1 November 2019 were met with ruthlessness and threats and a show of man purporting to be state security agents being planted within the premises”.
Hellen Sibanda, a company official in management said: “…whatever we are doing we are trying to revive CSC following the looting that it was subjected to before by the management. We will not do anything to jeopardise the economy.”
The workers said they are alarmed, shocked and filled with despondency by the attitude of the new CSC “investor”.
“His behaviour thus far has led us to believe that he is a high-tech streetwise con artist bent on defeating the government’s programme through fraudulent misrepresentation that he has organised investors with US$130 million which was later ramped up to US$400 million.
“We know government negotiated in good faith but was duped. We are sure that there are other potential local investors who ranked better than this conman Nicholas Havercroft. His appointment leads one to conclude that there was no rigorous and thorough process done to shortlist this man”.
CSC’s Bulawayo complex is the largest meat slaughtering facility in Africa and only trails Botswana Meat Commission in terms of the latest technologies.
At its peak, the beef processor and marketer used to handle up to 150 000 tonnes of beef and associated by-products annually and exported to the European Union, where it had an annual quota of 9 100 tonnes of beef.