“South African giant Chicken Bird Holdings (CBH), the owners of fast-food Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise in the country, have committed to invest US$150 million in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector. This will create 1 500 direct jobs and contribute towards the country’s food security,” the story read.
“The investment speaks to President Mnangagwa’s mantra that ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ and his vision of transforming the economy into an upper middle income status by 2030. Government is now working with CBH to secure three farms where the investment will be implemented.
“CBH is not new to Zimbabwe as it is already operating the KFC franchise in the country and has operations in seven other African countries.
“The company’s chief executive Mr Marthinus Stander yesterday met President Mnangagwa at his Munhumutapa offices in Harare to outline how they intended to operationalise the US$150 million kitty.
“In a letter that he submitted to President Mnangagwa, Mr Marthinus said: ‘CBH wishes to invest $150 million (USD) in Zimbabwe. This spend will be in agriculture, in the poultry sector. Over a four-year period, we will build a 50 000 broilers per week abattoir, a 500 000 day-old chicks per week hatchery, 30 breeding houses plus 80 broiler houses (of which 48 houses will be contracted out to farmers in the district) and two feed mills. The growing of maize and soya beans will also form part of the contract grower scheme.
“The direct employment would be 1 500 people. CBH is keen and serious to help Zimbabwe become self-sufficient in all aspects of poultry as well as in the development of export markets.”
What the story did not say was who was behind CBH and the KFC franchise in Zimbabwe.
CBH was founded by Kelvin William James, a Zimbabwean who started his poultry business in Zimbabwe as Ross Breeders Zimbabwe and merged it with Crest Breeders International before reverse listing the combined business through a merger with Consolidated Farming Industries (CFI).
He moved to South Africa after the land reform programme and started CBH which now has operations in Botswana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. CBH was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange but delisted in 2015.
The majority shareholder in CBH is Synapp International where James is the driving force. The company says it has a strong focus on the integrated poultry industry in Africa. It is registered in the British Virgin Islands so it is difficult to obtain its shareholding.
The same applies to another major shareholder of CBH, Proterra Investment Partners. It became a significant investor in CBH in 2014. The company is linked to food giant Cargill.
The other shareholder is the World Bank’s commercial arm, the International Financial Corporation which bought into CBH in 2013.
Though James does not seem to have been active in politics, his name came into the political limelight when he teamed up with Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai treasurer Roy Bennett to establish the Global Alliance for Zimbabwe, a non-profit organisation that was registered in the United States to raise funds for the main opposition to fund its elections following the unity government of 2009.
GAZ was registered in Washington DC in July 2011 as it was widely expected that Zimbabwe would hold elections in 2012 and its directors were Bennett, James, and Americans: Larry laRocco a former United States congressman, former United States ambassadors J.D. Bindenagel and James McGee.
The GAZ was deregistered in 2014, following the MDC split but there was no record of whether it raised any money or not for the MDC whose 2013 campaign was poorly funded unlike the 2008 campaign which saw Tsvangirai winning the elections at both parliamentary and presidential levels though he did not garner enough votes for an outright victory in the presidential election necessitating a run-off from which he pulled out because of violence.
Tsvangirai said the GAZ was formed without his knowledge.
Ed: Part of the research was provided by the Investigative Dashboard