By Nyashadzashe Ndoro
Mining tycoon and controversial millionaire businessman, John Bredenkamp, who captained the national rugby side before independence has died from kidney failure at his home in Harare.
The Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) announced his passing at 79 years old on Thursday morning.
“It is with a heavy and sad heart that the president of the ZRU announces the sad passing of our former Sables player and captain John Bredenkamp this morning,” the ZRU said in a statement.
“May his family and friends be comforted during this sad time. The ZRU is at a loss for words on the passing of our former skipper. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” the ZRU said in a statement.
Bredenkamp was believed to be an arms trader following a report by the United Nations in 2002 that he was a key weapons trader in the Democratic Republic of Congo following a military intervention by Zimbabwe to stop a rebel-led overthrow of the late former president Desire Kabila.
Bredenkamp was also among businessmen and political figures who became subjects of United States sanctions targeting people who had influence in the human rights violations and economic plunder in Zimbabwe.
He was believed to be heavily involved in diamond mining and selling hence he was accused by the international community for making millions of dollars from illegally exploiting Zimbabwe’s natural resources.
Bredenkamp was also believed to have accumulated US$870 million from activities such as sanctions busting on behalf of the Rhodesian regime, tobacco trading, arms sales and diamond mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
History has it that the businessman was born in Kimberley, South Africa, in 1940, moved to Zimbabwe with his parents as a child, and worked in the tobacco industry after finishing high school at Prince Edward in Harare.
After starting a company, the Casalee Group, which was registered in Belgium he was involved in the sale of Rhodesian tobacco on world markets, through evasion of United Nations sanctions and his company grew to be the fifth biggest tobacco merchant in the world, before he sold it to Universal Leaf Tobacco in 1993.
While he was a key donor for the ruling Zanu PF party Bredenkamp was believed to be a close ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and it is claimed that he twice sought to facilitate the early retirement of the late former President Robert Mugabe in 2004. Nehanda Radio