The death of Lands Minister Perrance Shiri on 29 July left a hanging issue at the Cold Storage Company which was allegedly taken over by Boustead Beef, said to be a British company but fronted by a former Zimbabwean farmer Nick Havercroft.
The much-heralded rescue of the CSC, at one time one of the biggest meat processors on the continent, gave a lot of hope to the workers who had gone without full salaries for nearly seven years, but that hope soon faded when the company closed operations for four months in September to allow for retooling but it has not re-opened since.
Instead, more than 100 workers were lined up for retrenchment but plans were scuttled by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
A senior government official conceded that the government had made a bad decision and was trying to find out a way of getting out of the deal without breaching the agreement it reached with Boustead Beef.
It is understood that cabinet agreed on the way forward before Shiri died but he had not yet disclosed the deal.
When asked for comment permanent secretary John Bhasera asked for questions in writing. This was done on 8 July but he has not responded since.
It is not clear whether the new minister Anxious Masuka who is reported to be a hands-on man and has corporate experience, but might not have political clout, will be able to extricate the government from the bad deal, especially since there have been reports from workers that the new owners have been stripping the company of its assets.
Under the agreement, Boustead Beef was supposed to:
- raise and invest a minimum of US$130 million into CSC over five years, being for both capital expenditures and working capital for the business;
- pay off CSC financial debts totalling US$42 530 597;
- pay rentals of US$100 000 per annum during the first five years of the concession agreement;
- take over and run the management of the following CSC ranches for an initial period of 25 years: Maphaneni; Dubane; Umguza; Chivumbuni; Mushandike; Willsgrove; and Darwendale;
- take over and run the management of the following abattoirs for an initial period of 25 years: Bulawayo; Chinhoyi; Masvingo; Marondera; and Kadoma; and
- take over and manage for an initial period of 25 years, the Harare, Gweru and Mutare distribution centres and residential properties of CSC.
It is understood that one of the things that the government might want to do is to ask the company to show it the money it said it will be investing.