“Billy Rautenbach was embarking on his latest manoeuvre. The scheme began with Mugabe’s people leaning on the giant mining house Anglo American to surrender a choice platinum prospect, in order that it might be deemed to have met its obligations under an ‘indigenisation’ policy. The stated aim of this policy was to reunite ordinary Zimbabweans with some of the mineral wealth that had for centuries been carted off by colonisers. In this case, after Anglo American gave in, the ordinary Zimbabwean selected to receive this redress was Billy Rautenbach. The mine came with a commitment to furnish Mugabe’s government with $100 million, ostensibly as a loan. But Rautenbach would not put up the money himself.
“On April 11, while Zimbabweans were waiting to learn the election results, Camec bought the platinum mine from Rautenbach and paid over the hundred million to the regime. On May 2, the electoral commission announced that the election would go to a run-off. The moneymen had their deal. Mugabe had his warchest.
“Over the weeks that followed, Mugabe’s goons conducted Operation Makavhoterapapi (‘Where did you put your vote?’). Those who had cast their ballots for Morgan Tsvangirai – the gangs said they had lists – were rounded up and punished. ‘It’s your own fault, voting for the opposition,’ one contingent of thugs told an activist as they pummelled him and beat his brother to death. ‘That’s why we are doing all these things to you. When we have the run-off, you will know how to vote.’ More than a hundred died. Thousands were detained and tortured.
“With five days left until the run-off, Tsvangirai pulled out of what he called a ‘violent, illegitimate sham of an election process’. On June 29, Mugabe was inaugurated for a fresh term, surrounded by troops in dress uniform and yellow berets. Such was the outrage abroad and the chaos at home that Mugabe submitted to peace talks with the opposition, hosted by his South African counterpart, Thabo Mbeki. It took the best part of three months, but by mid-September Mugabe had secured a deal that allowed him to stay in power, albeit with Tsvangirai appointed prime minister until the next election.
‘Billy Rautenbach had proved his worth again. Now it was time to make a return on his investment. London was the place for that: a bureau de change for converting power into money. As luck would have it, three rich gentlemen had recently arrived who were looking to broaden their horizons,” the chapter concludes.
Rautenbach, who owns, among other businesses, Green Fuel which supplies the country with ethanol, is one of the wealthiest people in Zimbabwe. His net worth is put at anything up to US$1.2 billion.
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