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Controversial Scott Sakupwanya elbows out competitors in Penhalonga gold rush

Better Brands Mining Company, owned by prominent gold dealer Scott Sakupwanya, is on the verge of resuming mining operations at gold-rich Redwing Mine in Penhalonga amid resistance from a section of workers and residents who say they knew no peace during the company’s previous stint which was marred by off-the-book gold deals, non-adherence to environmental regulations and violent escapades.

Redwing corporate rescue practitioner Knowledge Hofisi had in November last year stopped the operations of Better Brands Mining Company to allow implementation of a deal, which the gold mining firm had signed with a new investor, Duatlet.

Duatlet, which comprised of Probadek Investments, Betterbrands Mining and Prime Royal Africa, on November 17, 2021 signed a four year agreement with Redwing to inject US$3 million into the business for payment of corporate rescue costs, settlement of claims and procurement of machinery.

Prior to the signing of the joint agreement, Betterbrands was running operations at Redwing.

However, the wheels came off the agreement when the parties failed to raise the capital amid accusations of underhand manoeuvres.

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With capital not raised within set timelines, Hofisi immediately terminated the contract.

All the while, insiders say, Sakupwanya appears to be the last man standing from the botched deal and has set in motion plans to resume mining as Better Brands.

On Friday matters came to a head when workers held a no-holds-barred meeting with Hofisi and a team from Better Brands Mining Company, where the workers openly said they would not allow the mining operations to resume under Better Brands.

Tempers flared in the meeting, as workers insisted that Better Brands Mining Company should not resume operations arguing that creditors agreed to cancel tributary agreements, while remaining under judicial management, while hunting for new investors.

“Surprisingly, we have seen the return of this dubious investor (Better Brands Mining Company) that we voted against. Workers are not aware of the new terms of the amended agreements with Better Brands, which also elbowed out local partners like Prime Royal that we worked with before,” said a worker who requested anonymity fearing reprisals.

“Firstly, it was Hofisi who suspended Better Brands Mining Company to stop operations. Now, he is the same person who is trying to re-impose the mining operations of Better Brands. We have a standing resolution that states the removal of Redwing Mine from judicial management,” explained the worker.

The workers said that the Workers’ Committee chairman Peter Zheke and some members within the committee that include Victor Zivanai and Peter Chavarika teamed up with Redwing Mine workers’ committee legal advisor Reynos Gumbo and held a meeting on 13 January 2022 with Better Brands Mining Company legal advisor, Allan Masiya and the leadership of the Better Brands Mining Company where it was resolved that the mining company resume operations.

Minutes of the meeting in possession of Zim Morning Post seemed to guarantee the security of Better Brands Mining Company.

“The committee resolved that Redwing Mine operations would commence immediately upon the handing of the mining claim and those operations would not be hindered or interrupted as a way of giving Better Brands Mining Company comfort and security for its investment,” reads the minutes.

A section of workers who spoke to Zim Morning Post alleged that bribes changed hands leading to Better Brands Mining Company gaining traction.

Part of infuriated workers under the Associated Mine Workers Union (AMWU) have petitioned the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe to disengage Redwing Mine from judicial management.

The workers said they prefer the return of Metallon Gold, which they said produced about 50kgs of gold per month, as compared to the 5kgs of gold per month that has been produced by Better Brands Mining Company.

Metallon Corporation is a gold producer, developer and explorer with operations in Zimbabwe. Metallon is Zimbabwe’s largest gold mining company operating three gold mines throughout the country.

“There are people among us who are trying to persuade us to go against the return of Metallon by saying we will be paid handsomely by Better Brands. That will not happen and we know what we want,” said a source.

Commenting on the scandals enveloping Rendwing Mine where Sakupwanya is said be doing the bidding of high ranking of officials in Government, Centre For Research and Development Director, James Mupfumi, said gold mining in the area had become shrouded in secrecy.

Mupfumi alleged senior Government officials were benefiting from the chaos hence there was no urgency in resolving long standing problems.

“Operations of gold barons at Redwing Mine have proved beyond doubt that they are a worst case of tax evasion, mineral smuggling and human rights abuse,” said Mupfumi.

“What is obtaining at Redwing Mine is the subversion of institutions meant to safeguard the rights of workers and community by political driven cartels of mineral looters,” Mupfumi added.

Efforts to get a comment from Hofisi were fruitless as his mobile phone continuously went unanswered. He did not respond to messages sent on his mobile phone.

Hofisi of Aurifin Capital was appointed Redwing Mine Corporate Rescue Practitioner on 21 April 2021 following the suspension of Cecil Madondo of Stone House Consultants by the Master of the High Court in July 2020.

The suspension of the mining activities came after the Centre For Research and Development produced a damning report on mining operations around Penhalonga that detailed human rights abuses wrought from illicit gold trading around Penhalonga.

Previous investigations have shown that Better Brands’ operations were in violation of Statutory Instrument (SI) 258 of 2018 Environmental Management (Control of Alluvial Mining) (Amendment) Regulations, which outlaw setting up washing plants, ore stockpiles, slime dams or mining ponds within 500 meters from a river bed.

Workers of Redwing Mine through its workers’ committee in September 2021 had agreed with Hofisi to remove Redwing Mine from corporate rescue plan.

Redwing was placed under corporate rescue in July 2020 after the Associated Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe (AMWUZ) filed an application on the grounds that the company was financially distressed, among other reasons.

Redwing Mine was placed in corporate rescue notwithstanding opposition by Metallon Corporation, the parent company.

However, since the commencement of corporate rescue proceedings, there has been litigation, which is still pending.

Hofisi is a former David Whitehead Textiles (DW) judicial manager who appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court on June 11 2021 facing five counts of fraud and theft of trust property.

The State alleged that Hofisi started abusing funds at the Kadoma-based former textiles giant when he was appointed judicial manager in 2014 and was entrusted with the company’s finances.

Hofisi has, for the past few years, been at loggerheads with David Whitehead shareholders, who accused him of stripping the company off its assets.

He was also accused of failing to account for the proceeds of disposal of the David Whitehead non-productive assets he sold in order to raise capital and also failed to invest the proceeds into the business, notwithstanding his receipt of the said proceeds. Zim Morning Post