Factional fighting within Zanu PF continues to intensify with the state media recycling a two-year-old story of how Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman Temba Mliswa demanded US$165 million as “consultancy” fees from businessman Muller Conrad “Billy” Rautenbach.
Nehanda Radio and other independent publications reported on the story in September 2012 while the Herald and other state media outlets ignored it.
But as factional fighting within Zanu PF spills into the state media, the faction of the party led by Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and which now controls the state media is using that platform to deal with alleged supporters of the faction of the party led by Vice President Joice Mujuru.
The Mliswa scandal is said to have sucked in Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Zanu-PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, Deputy Lands Minister and Politburo member Tendai Savanhu and former chair for Manicaland province Basil Nyabadza either as mediators.
Mliswa demanded 10 percent shareholding or payment of equal value from Mr Rautenbach for linking him up with prominent politicians who enabled the businessman to establish an ethanol plant at Chisumbanje, and to clinch coal and platinum concessions at Hwange Colliery and Unki Mine, respectively.
In September 2012 Mliswa opened up about how he helped Rautenbach push through million-dollar platinum and ethanol deals by taking him from “minister to minister” and doors were opened for him.
Rautenbach at the time was facing fraud, bribery and corruption allegations in South Africa and was banned from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mliswa claims Rautenbach hired him as a consultant “to help him with several things, amongst them to get his farm back because it had been allocated to Gerald Mlotshwa (a Harare lawyer).
“He also wanted to start the mining of coke in Hwange. He wanted to be given a concession for a thermal power station which he was going to build in partnership with ZESA. He also wanted platinum concessions,” Mliswa said.
Although Mliswa was paid US$10,000 per month, on top of an allocation for fuel, relations between the two soured. Mliswa is claiming Rautenbach is backtracking on promises he made to give him shares in some of the projects.
For example Mliswa claims he helped Rautenbach in pushing through and setting up the controversial Chisumbanje Ethanol plant, in return for a 10 percent shareholding. He said there was opposition to the deal and it only went through because he was roped in as part of an indigenisation drive.
Mliswa’s lawyers wrote to Rautenbach enquiring about their client’s promised shareholding and threatening to go to court, but the latter opted for an out of court settlement that has remained elusive.
“This (ethanol) thing won’t take off before my spirit rests. My tears are dropping. I was warned before of the sort of person Billy is. One Indian once told me; ‘never open the door for Billy, show him the door, only open when he has paid you,” Mliswa said at the time.
Rautenbach has a very controversial past. In 2008 both the European Union and the United States added him to a list of officials and companies under targeted sanctions for allegedly aiding the regime under Mugabe. In return for this financial support he was given lucrative mining and land deals.
In 2002 the UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, described Rautenbach as a man “whose personal and professional integrity is doubtful.”
Mliswa himself has a very controversial past.
In 2010 he was arrested and faced more than 40 charges. These ranged from contempt of court, public violence and assault to attempted murder, housebreaking and malicious damage to property.
In June 2011 he was acquitted on charges of trying to forcibly wrestle Noshio Investments, a million-dollar vehicle accessories company owned by British businessman Paul Westwood.
But in an exclusive interview with Nehanda Radio, Westwood alleged that Mliswa bribed the presiding magistrate Never Katiyo who suddenly acquired a US$12 000 car while on a US$200 a month salary.
He also alleges Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa played a key role in the acquittal of Mliswa and his co-accused Hammarskjold Banda, Brendaly Banda, Alfred Mwatiwamba, George Marere and Martin Mutasa (Mutasa’s son).
Last year Mliswa was arrested and charged with violence after an attack on Zanu-PF Hurungwe East MP Sarah Mahoka by party youths, who were allegedly sent by him.