By Tererai Karimakwenda
John Bredenkamp, the controversial businessman known to be aligned to ZANU PF, has once again made the headlines in Zimbabwe in a bizarre legal case that has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood movie – cash, betrayal, fraud, denial and of course, the military.
This time he was at the High Court in Harare on Monday facing charges of defrauding a former business partner, Yaqub Ibrahim Mohammed, who says he loaned Bredenkamp $4 million back in 2001.
Mohammed told the court that Bredencamp at the time claimed the funds were to be used to fund his cobalt mining operations in the DRC. But he later discovered the money was used to finance a feeding programme for Zimbabwean troops that were stationed in the DRC, thereby misrepresenting the intended use.
“He used the cash to fund some feeding programmes with the government and later I found out that he had set up a company called Race View for purposes of feeding the defence forces,” Mohammed said in court. He added that he would not have extended the funds to Bredenkamp had he known its true intended use.
Bredencamp is being represented by the outgoing Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister, Advocate Eric Matinenga, who was an MDC-T candidate but is now practicing law full-time. Matinenga admits that Bredenkamp owes the money but insists this is not a criminal, but a civil case.
Journalist Angus Shaw told SW Radio Africa that Bredenkamp helped many senior officials within ZANU PF to get into business in the DRC, as he had operations there and local connections. The Zim military in turn provided protection for his operations and both benefitted for a long time.
Shaw said Bredenkamp also helped to finance some military operations because the Zimbabwean army was always short of money, with soldiers living a very poor standard of life, even at home.
But according to Shaw, Bredenkamp fell out with Mugabe and the regime at some point and his business relationships appear to have soured as well. This latest case is a manifestation of how he has lost his influence within ZANU PF.
Although he claims to be just a business man with no political ties, Bredenkamp is known to support ZANU PF and has close business ties to some top chefs, including Emmerson Mnangagwa. There have also been reports that he facilitated ZANU PF’s access to arms, ignoring embargoes and targeted arms sanctions against the Mugabe regime.
He was on the E.U. targeted sanctions list until he was delisted last year, along with several other ZANU PF top officials. He sued the UK government for freezing his assets during that period.
The army feeding affair is but one of many such dramatic illustrations of how Zimbabwean officials have been tangled up in the DRC since Mugabe sent troops there, allegedly to help President Kabila fight rebels.
Top officials within ZANU PF and some of Mugabe’s close allies have over the years been implicated in massive plundering of resources and looting in the DRC.
One affair worth revisiting involves Nyasha del Campo, the daughter of Vice President Joice Mujuru. As reported on SW Radio Africa, Nyasha tried to set up a deal involving illegal gold from the DRC on behalf of her parents.
She and her husband Pedro live in Spain where they set up two companies, allegedly with the financial support of the parents. The deal involved shipping about US$35 million worth of gold nuggets per month to Switzerland. SW Radio Africa