By Prosper Ndlovu
PROPERTY magnate Philip Chiyangwa is “angry” after the former Education Minister David Coltart blamed him for causing the demise of Bulawayo industries.
Chiyangwa took over the running of several companies in Bulawayo after he bought them for a combined Z$30 million from Tirzah Group of Companies Investments in May 1998, a transaction which Coltart facilitated as a liquidator.
Among the companies was G & D Shoes, Belmont Leather as well as property companies that included Express Investments, Zimdelta (Pvt) Ltd, M&C Swiel and FFT Private Ltd. In the face of viability constraints since the turn of the millennium, most of these companies shut down and rendered scores of workers jobless.
Annoyed by Coltart’s sentiments in an article published in The Zimbabwean, Chiyangwa yesterday blasted the Bulawayo-based lawyer and former MDC senator accusing him of bringing his name into disrepute and “misleading” the nation. In a June 26 article, Coltart accused Chiyangwa of “enriching himself at the expense of Zimbabwe’s working class”.
Said Coltart: “I’ve no problem when wealth is made as a result of innovation, hard work and ingenuity. However, most of Zimbabwe’s millionaires have made their money off the back of the working class, through plunder, asset stripping and corruption.
“I don’t know how Chiyangwa made his money save for what he did to a variety of Bulawayo-based companies that he took over and drove into the ground.
“I also have a concern when Zimbabwe’s wealth and precious foreign currency is spent on very expensive imports such as Bentleys, Rolls Royces and the like. Surely our foreign currency would be better spent on vehicles made either in Zimbabwe or at least South Africa, which is on the African continent.”
In a written response seen by The Chronicle yesterday, Chiyangwa turned the sword on Coltart for peddling “spurious allegations” that he said cannot be supported with facts. The prominent businessman said the demise of Bulawayo industries, while it is a national crisis, cannot be blamed on the collapse of a single individual.
“I’ve never bought a single operating company in Bulawayo in the sense of a going concern. What I simply participated in was public auctions of the disposal of assets of dead companies through the Master of the High Court, through the active direction of liquidators,” he said. “What David Coltart is selectively failing to inform the public is that these companies had been severely stripped and run-down by their former owners, mostly the Jewish friends of Coltart who controlled the industry in Bulawayo,” he blasted.
“For the record, I simply picked up assets way after some core and critical pieces had been cherry picked and sold away. Coltart doesn’t want the world to know of his role in getting without going to tender a contract with the National Railway of Zimbabwe (NRZ), which is for 80 years, and they’re still getting payments. His role in destroying NRZ needs to be publicly interrogated.”
Coltart together with Barbra Lunga and Robert Michael McIndoe represented Tirzah Group in their capacity as provisional liquidators while Chiyangwa represented Native Investment Africa as purchaser on May 5, 1998. Yesterday, Coltart stuck by his words, insisting that Chiyangwa could have done better to keep the Bulawayo companies running.
“He took over the company, which is now dead. As I recall, him and others took over companies which are now shells, go to G & D now and see. What he says is his point of view but he needs to speak to two or three people and see if they’ll agree with him,” said Coltart.
“He (Chiyangwa) had access to finance, which is what those firms needed at the time – access to capital and removal of red tape. No doubt the companies were in trouble but he could have helped.” Coltart confirmed he was a liquidator in Chiyangwa’s purchase of the companies “conscious of the fact that it was a difficult business environment” but insists Chiyangwa could have done better.
“He never made an effort to make the companies viable despite the links he had with political power,” said Coltart. Chiyangwa is accusing Coltart of dragging his name into the mud for political expediency. He said Coltart and his partners should have purchased the properties in their own right after “they made good money by presiding over the liquidation of the outlined properties”.
Chiyangwa later sold off the businesses to an investment concern of former attorney general, Sobusa Gula Ndebele. The Chronicle