The State media, which should have been the government’s watchdog on what could have been one of the biggest investments in the country’s second largest city, seems to have been sold a dummy by Boustead Beef, which was touted as a British investor in the country’s largest meat processor , the Cold Storage Company.
According to sources, the Chronicle was taken for ride barely a month after the Boustead Beef agreement had been announced by cabinet.
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.
In a report on 6 June, three weeks after the announcement of the agreement, the Chronicle reported that the CSC had “embarked on a massive rehabilitation of infrastructure at its ranches across the country as it prepares to resume full-scale operations before the end of the year”.
The story was written after a tour of Dubane Ranch, one of the ranches Boustead beef was supposed to run for an initial period of 25 years.
Sources, however, told The Insider that the more than 2 000 cattle that the Chronicle was shown at Dubane did not belong to Boustead Beef or the CSC.
They belonged to a tenant who was renting the ranch from the CSC. It was the tenant that had done the restocking and rehabilitation of roads and boundary fences and had also employed locals.
A source said the tour, from which other media houses were barred, was a publicity stunt meant to impress potential investors in Boustead Beef that the company was on the ground and was making progress.
As if this was not enough, in September the Chronicle reported that Boustead Beef was putting up a US$9 million solar power plant at the Bulawayo factory to augment power from the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority in readiness for the company to resume operations.
It quoted Isaah Machingura as saying: “As we speak designs and repairs for the factory are being completed and things are moving on well. Repairs must all be cleared by December so that we open Bulawayo in January next year.”
The company had, in fact closed operations for four months saying it was retooling and would re-open at the beginning of February this year but never re-opened. Instead it decided to retrench workers offering them paltry packages which would have seen some walking away with less than US$300 after serving the company for more than 30 years.
It turned out the solar equipment in question was for another company and was for a project in Hwange.
Lands and Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka has since told Parliament that the government is reviewing the agreement with Boustead Beef because the company has so far failed to perform as per agreement.
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