The corporate rescue of the Cold Storage Company, aimed at resuscitating what was once one of Africa’s biggest meat processors, was turned into a circus last week when the investor that the government had partnered to revive the company over 25 years filed a claim as the company’s biggest creditor and workers ended up being represented by two different people, one a lawyer and the other, the vice-chairman of the workers’ committee.
Boustead Beef, which entered into an agreement with the government in January 2019 to revive the CSC, filed claims totaling $3.5 billion shocking some of the government employees that attended the creditors’ meeting called by the Master of the High Court in Bulawayo on Wednesday.
While details of more than 200 creditors were known before the meeting and only amounted to about $160 million, Boustead Beef’s claim was only known at the meeting as it had refused to cooperate with the Corporate Rescue Practitioner, Ngoni Kudenga of BDO Zimbabwe.
One of the mandates given to BDO Zimbabwe by the High Court was to “examine Boustead Beef (Pvt) Ltd’s current operations (investments made and operational initiatives implemented since the signing of the agreement) and establish whether or not it has capacity to revive CSC and advance the Livestock Growth Plan”.
CSC workers were also baffled by Boustead Beef’s claim because it only operated for seven months before sending them on forced leave saying it was retooling.
They argued that if Boustead Beef had invested the money that it was now claiming, the CSC would have been up and running today, therefore, there would have been no need for a rescue.
BDO Zimbabwe which was appointed the corporate rescuer in December was disqualified after some of the creditors led by lawyer Dumisani Dube, who claimed to be representing the workers as well as the United Food and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe, said the chartered accounting firm should be disqualified because there was a conflict of interest.
CSC workers, who were represented by the vice-chairman of the workers’ committee Beit Rinashe, queried who Dube and UFAWUZ were representing arguing that they had opted to represent themselves throughout because they did not have money to hire a lawyer and did not belong to UFAWUZ.
Rinashe who was representing more than 780 CSC former and present workers said he actually wondered who was paying Dube’s bill since the workers could not afford a lawyer.
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