Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Mugabe sucked into R1million whisky import scam

By Chris Goko and Farai Mutsaka

HARARE – A parasitic group around President Robert Mugabe has “imported” 1 million Rand worth of whisky “duty-free” under the guise of supporting his Mutare birthday and various charitable initiatives linked to the octogenarian leader.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe greets crowds during his 88th birthday rally in Mutare about 265km (165miles) east of the capital Harare, February 25, 2012. Mugabe turned 88 on Tuesday. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe greets crowds during his 88th birthday rally in Mutare about 265km (165miles) east of the capital Harare, February 25, 2012. Mugabe turned 88

The scandal, threatening to ruin several innocent parties including South African-listed Nu-Africa Comm Trading (Pty) Limited (Nu-Africa Comm) and the Zanu PF leader, typifies a worrying and decades-long culture eating away at the core of the once popular party.

Tragically, this is also how thousands of farms and companies were plundered by party functionaries in the country.

According to documents, the crafty individuals brought in hundreds of cases of high-value alcohol under the aegis of a Mugabe and Kutama Old Boys Association (Koba) “fundraiser”, which later turned up at numerous Harare supermarkets.

While the “costly consignment” was brought into the country on December 10, several cases of Chivas Regal whisky, Famous Grouse, Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker Red were delivered at Dimitri Pavlou’s Athienitis Spar (Athienitis) and other large retailers a few days later.

Under the well-rehearsed plan, the alleged scammers — who have also prejudiced the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) — acquired an assortment of whiskies under the president and Koba’s rural Zvimba address, but the massive shipments ended up in the capital.

With much of the booze procured from the Limpopo Duty Free (LDF) and entering the country under Mugabe, and Koba’s names, a raft of invoices tendered at Pavlou’s popular outlets and a warehouse facility belonging to one of Zimbabwe’s largest, and listed retailers surprisingly reflect Nu-Africa Comm’s name, investigations by the Daily News on Sunday show.

“It would seem that this is a closely-knit operation and these are people exploiting their closeness, and proximity to the president (Mugabe).

“However, they got it wrong by using the old man’s name in a venture they know he would not ordinarily support or approve,” said a source close to the developments.

A teetotaller, Mugabe is known for his refrain for alcohol.

In their crafty act, the group also allegedly used a slew of trading companies to disguise their tracks (in smuggling the beer into Zimbabwe) and these included a trans-Limpopo vehicle called Tashoille (Private) Limited (Tashoille).

The company has offices in Bulawayo and claims to have a handling facility in Harare’s Workington industrial area.

Although papers at hand show that the company has a holding facility at number 4 Simon Mazorodze Road — and even received the LDF supplies there in December last year — a visit by this paper drew blanks on the company’s existence and the premises are actually owned by Mashonaland Tobacco Company.

After calls to several parties, including Nu-Africa Comm managing director Hendrik Swart and Koba elder Walter Chidhakwa on Sunday, the Daily News on Sunday confirmed that the former has had a working relationship with Tashoille and Koba had not commissioned any fundraising initiatives in recent months.

In a telephone interview from Johannesburg, South Africa yesterday, Swart said he was unaware of Tashoille’s alleged dodgy dealings and his company would immediately cut ties with any parties operating outside the law.

He stressed that his JSE Securities Exchange-listed group was in the business of financing stocks for retail firms, including Innscor Africa and OK Zimbabwe, but was uninvolved in the movement of goods from wherever they are procured to Zimbabwe.

In the meantime, the companies were entirely separate from a shareholding point of view and, as far as he remembered, they procured some stuff from Tashoille and vice-versa.

Attempts to secure comment from the latter’s principals were fruitless — just as we could get KOBA chairman Dakarai Mapuranga, who said had been in SA.

After even sending him an sms on the beer-smuggling issue, Mapuranga failed to acknowledge our inquiries nor take our calls thereafter.

On the other hand, Zimra commissioner-general Gershem Pasi declined to comment on the issue yesterday, although this paper understands he had been summoned to a meeting by Koba elders — round about the time the scandal ruptured — and where the youngsters involved were “sharply rebuked”.

Equally, Athienitis owner Pavlou — whose shop has been one of the major beneficiaries of the controversial goods — also failed to return our calls and messages.

In fact, investigations by the Daily News on Sunday last week established that trade between Nu-Africa Comm, Tashoille and the Fife Avenue establishment — trading as Lucullus (Private) Limited was continuing.

As late as Wednesday last week, inquiries were flying back and forth for the supply of a variety of goods, including milk, breakfast cereals, dietary supplements and other household goods or consumables.

The health supplements, include the world-renowned ultimate sports nutrition energy drink.

Chidhakwa, meanwhile, stressed that there was no such title as “president” at Koba. Even though he is not an executive member, Chidhakwa and several other politicians, including Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo “provide guidance as old boys” to the newer team.

Those in the know say the association holds its meetings monthly, but it had not tabled any such “fun-based” fundraiser. Daily News