By Jeffrey Muvundusi
Zimbabwean businessman Paul Evans, who fled the country two years ago for fear of political persecution over his business entity, has finally opened up, describing one of the alleged persecutors former vice president Phelekezela Mphoko as an outright liar.
Paul Evans, who was the director of Golden Grill Fast Foods, fled the country to South Africa in 2016 where he wrote a letter to former president Robert Mugabe in which he implicated Mphoko and war veteran George Mlala of having a hand in destroying his business entity in the process putting his life under threat.
Evans’ trouble started when government introduced the indigenisation law, which Mlala and company used to persecute local and foreign businessmen in the city under the protection of Mphoko.
Evans, who had initially ducked questions from this paper apparently for fear of victimization, this week heaved a sigh of relief after reading the story in last week’s edition which sought to expose how his two companies were violently taken away from him.
While Evans was in agreement with this paper’s investigations on the matter, it was the reaction by Mphoko that seemed to have irked him.
Speaking through his lawyer Welshman Ncube recently, Mphoko told this paper that his alleged involvement in the Golden Grills saga was a mere fabrication meant to soil his name politically.
“I have spoken to Mphoko and his response is that all those allegations are totally 100 percent false,” Ncube said.
“He has never been involved in issues to do with Golden Grill and he never supported Mlala . . . And he denies having any conversation with Paul Evans. He says all these are political fabrications directed at him for political motives. He has always acted lawfully and ethically during his time in office,” Ncube said.
Reacting to that, Evans said: “That’s a joke, I met Mphoko and some security detail called Sims was also present. Mphoko summoned Mlala to the meeting. He came and I even met Mphoko’s son on that day.”
“I told him (Mphoko) that Mlala helped those guys steal my business, you got to remember that Mlala was the front man. He basically spoke as the new director of my company. Mlala was the one talking to Mphoko because I am sure he didn’t want to expose his friend. He quickly told me to go to Mlala for recourse and told him they should pay me and abruptly closed the meeting,” Evans told Southern News.
He said his long time business partner, Douglas Siziba in whose hands he transferred the power of attorney before his unceremonious departure was the one who organised the meeting.
“Siziba is the one who organised my meeting with Mphoko, you can ask him,” Evans said.
Siziba concurred: “Yes, I am the one who arranged the meeting and there is evidence to show that we met Mphoko in the presence of some CIO operative and it was the three of us, including one Robert Ncube. That Mphoko can’t deny because we have everything to prove that we met him. It’s only that he is now afraid to be seen to have been doing such during his tenure.”
Evans, however, revealed that he has renewed his fight to get back what belongs to him. He also indicated that since he was on asylum in the neighbouring country there was need to use proper channels before he could come back home.
“I am resuming communication with people in Harare. There are a lot of people who know we met Mphoko. Let’s see what comes out of the Harare negotiations,” he said without revealing who exactly he was in communication with.
“We are interested in getting back our business. I needed to start the ball rolling remember I am on asylum which I lose when I leave, the kids are in school so I need to put in place proper negotiations and align things first,” he said.
The Southern News understands that Evans has since written a letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the first attempt to get his empire back while those fingered in the matter get arrested.
Golden Grill Fast Foods was temporarily shut down in 2014 after the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB) said the organisation was not in compliance with the then controversial law.
The order was later reversed after it was established that Evans is a Zimbabwean citizen amid revelations that the move to “indigenise” the company was political.
“Siziba became a victim after I left. It was a free-for-all after the indigenisation notices. When I left, he realised after a few days there was a problem. There was theft all round when he put measures to normalise things. They turned on him with the blessings of Mphoko and the unions who were complicit in the matter,” said Evans.
He said when they reported the matter to the police, no action was taken as there was clear intimidation and reluctance to pursue the matter. DailyNews