Takunda Maodza Assistant News Editor—
ZANU-PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman and Hurungwe West legislator Cde Temba Mliswa tried to force businessman Mr Muller Conrad “Billy” Rautenbach to pay him at least US$165 million as “consultancy” fees in shady demands that sucked in three senior ruling party officials. The demands; which pertained to Mr Rautenbach’s interests in Hwange Colliery, Unki Mine and Green Fuel ethanol project in Chisumbanje; sucked in Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Zanu-PF secretary for administration Cde Didymus Mutasa, Deputy Lands Minister and Politburo member Cde Tendai Savanhu and former chair for Manicaland province Cde Basil Nyabadza either as mediators.
Documents in our possession show that Mr Mliswa demanded 10 percent shareholding or payment of equal value from Mr Rautenbach for linking him up with prominent politicians who enabled the businessman to establish an ethanol plant at Chisumbanje, and to clinch coal and platinum concessions at Hwange Colliery and Unki Mine, respectively.
From February 15, 2010 to March 16, 2011, Cde Mliswa’s lawyers wrote regular letters of demand to Mr Rautenbach’s attorneys demanding “facilitation fees” and commission” for the three deals.
The documents show that up to some point, Mr Rautenbach paid Cde Mliswa in cash and kind but stopped doing so for undisclosed reasons.
In all, Cde Mliswa demanded US$100 million for the Unki Mine deal, and US$65 million for Green Fuel. In regards to Hwange, Cde Mliswa was for a while paid US$10 for every tonne of coal mined, and US$5 per tonne of coke. A tonne of coal costs no less than US$100 and while it could not be established how much Mr Rautenbach’s concessions produced, Hwange Colliery Company’s output topped 140 000 tonnes per month by December 2013.
The coal and coke payments stopped abruptly, triggering the letters of demand.
Indications are that after the back-and-forth haggling, Cde Mliswa asked for financial assistance and was given a once-off payment on condition he stopped his incessant demands.
In a letter dated October 14 2010, Rautenbach’s lawyers wrote to Cde Mliswa’s lawyers saying he (Mliswa) had approached Rautenbach through a third party for financial assistance which assistance could only be advanced if Mliswa unconditionally withdrew all demands.
Cde Mliswa duly did so in a letter dated February 10 2011 that he wrote directly to Mr Rauntenbach’s lawyers, Ahmed and Ziyambi Legal Practitioners.
The extent of the payment extended could not be ascertained.
Minister Mutasa and Cdes Nyabadza and Savanhu, according to the documents, acted as “arbitrators” in the dispute.
Cde Mliswa admitted making the demands.
“It is true. He looked for me and he got me involved. I took him to every high-ranking officials he knows today in Government. I was part and parcel of it. He said my shares cannot be made public because I am a Zanu-PF politician and he will not get funding. He used to pay me. He has stopped and I took the legal route. He then confronted high-ranking officials in Government for me to withdraw my papers. I took him to Chisumbanje (in) a helicopter. What did he think I was doing in that helicopter risking my life? It was not a free ride,” he said.
When asked which high-ranking officials he linked Mr Rautenbach with, Mr Mliswa said: “The person who was then Minister of Mines and Mining Development (Dr Obert Mpofu) and my uncle Didymus Mutasa.”
He said he successfully applied for Arda Chisumbanje but had no capacity to invest there and ended up roping in Mr Rautenbach.
Mr Mliswa said he applied to run Arda Chisumbanje when Cde Rugare Gumbo was Minister of Agriculture and he won the deal because Cde Gumbo was reluctant to give it to Mr Rautenbach.
“He tried to send people for me to settle everything out of court but I refused. Government is dealing with a criminal, and as a legislator I cannot allow that. It is not about me wanting his money but Government understanding that it is dealing with a criminal. Right now he should account for a Government platinum claim that he sold to enemies of this country at Unki,” he said.
Mr Mliswa said Mr Rautenbach was given a platinum concession at Unki which he later sold and used the proceeds to invest at Chisumbanje.
“He got it under Toddal. He speculated and sold it and that is the money he used to set up the ethanol plant at Chisumbanje. I am not fighting him. I have to protect my country from dealing with criminals. He used the country’s resources to make money. It is a crime as he never remitted the money,” he said.
On Hwange, Mr Mliswa said: “As for Hwange, he was given a claim and a contract to produce coking coal for the power station to improve power generation. It never happened. He exported that coal.”
Minister Mutasa confirmed he was privy to the Chisumbanje disagreement but denied playing mediator.
“I was aware of that but I did not try to assist anyone. I do not know what you are trying to say and I do not have anything else different to tell you,” he said.
Mr Nyabadza said Mliswa had a penchant for torching controversy.
“I have never been involved in anything like that or in issues of the two (Rautenbach and Mliswa) coming together. Mr Mliswa starts a lot of bush fires and I do not know which bush fire he has started again. I was never involved,” he said.
Through his lawyers GN Mlotshwa & Co, Cde Mliswa bombarded the businessman with letters of demand almost every week for a whole year.
The letters show he roped in Cdes Mutasa, Savanhu and Nyabadza to force Mr Rautenbach to fork out at least US$165 million for Green Fuel and Unki, and more for Hwange.
On February 15, 2010 GN Mlotshwa & Co said: “We are instructed to write to you by our above mentioned client (Temba Peter Mliswa) in connection with commissions due to him of various consultancy work undertaken in respect of your business interests in Zimbabwe.
“Our client demands that such commissions be paid, within the next seven days, in respect of the following matters: Hwange Colliery. Our client advises us that you engaged his assistance for the purposes of securing a contract to mine coal and coke on various coal fields belonging to the company. This was after previous attempts by yourself had failed. We are advised that the agreement between yourself and our client was that he would be paid US$5 per tonne of coal and or coke mined. Mr Mliswa confirms that he received intermittent payments pursuant to this agreement.”
Mr Mliswa’s lawyers demanded a breakdown of total tonnage mined to enable him reconcile the full amount due to him.
On Unki Mine, GN Mlotshwa & Co said: “Our client advises that he was instrumental in ensuring for the granting of a certain platinum concession to Central Africa Mining and Exploration Company Limited (CARMEC), an entity in which you are a significant shareholder. Mr Mliswa advises that the agreement with you was that he would be constituted a 10 percent shareholding in the venture via the issuance of an equivalent value in shares to him in CARMEC, an entity listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in the United Kingdom.
“We are advised by our client that no such consideration has been paid to date, and that further, the concession appears to have been sold recently at a huge profit by CARMEC.”
Mr Mliswa also demanded payment for his role at Chisumbanje.
“Mr Mliswa states that he played a pivotal role in facilitating the joint venture with ARDA in respect of its above states (Middle Sabi/Chisumbanje). We are advised by our client that he was meant to be a 10 percent shareholder in the joint venture entity with an option to purchase additional shareholding in the future in line with the country’s indigenisation laws.
“This shareholding was to be warehoused under Ratings Investments (Pvt) Ltd as advised to His Excellency, President Mugabe and then Minister of Agriculture, Hon Rugare Gumbo, in writing. To date, our client advises that no such shareholding has been allotted to him in respect of his assistance in this regard and agreement with yourself to this effect.”
Mr Mliswa said non-monetary payments had been made.
“Mr Mliswa acknowledges that from time to time, fuel and other material resources were made available to him through Cargo Carriers (Pvt) Ltd in Harare. He explains that the purpose of these resources was to better equip him logistically for the various expenses related to lobbying on your behalf, and securing the necessary support to deliver on his consultancy mandate.”
He complained that Mr Rautenbach was no longer delivering what was due to him notwithstanding “various and numerous verbal and mobile text requests”.
“This also includes a monthly retainer fee of US$10 000 split equally between Cargo Carriers and yourself. A number of such payments were made then abruptly terminated with no explanation from you…
“Our client advises that he has a number of reputable witnesses who are all prepared to swear in affidavit form as regards the foregoing arrangements as well as the work our client carried on your behalf. We trust that this will not be necessary and that this matter can be amicably resolved as between the parties,” wrote Cde Mliswa’s lawyers.
Other letters were written on February 23, 2010; April 15, 2010; April 20, 2010; June 4, 2010; up to March 16, 2011 (see all the correspondence on our website www.herald.co.zw and on page 3)
A letter dated April 14, 2010 letter to Mr Rautenbach’s lawyers, Ahmed and Ziyambi implicated Cde Savanhu who was then chairman of the Hwange Colliery Board in the scam where he is cited as mediator.
“… we advise that whereas your client has acknowledged his liability to our client through a mediator, Mr Tendai Savanhu, no precise figures have been forthcoming. Our client considers that your client is not being sincere with regard to early settlement.
“There appears to be no willingness on the part of your client to divulge precisely the total tonnage mined to date. Our client is thus not in a position to ascertain, precisely, the amounts due to him and whether or not these can be reconciled with actual tonnage mined”, wrote Mr Mliswa’s lawyers.
“As such our client demands payment of all commissions due to him in this regard calculated as follows: the average of the payments made to him thus far multiplied by the number of months still to run on the colliery contract. This amount should be paid in full on or before 12 noon on 21st April 2010.”
On Unki Mine, Cde Mliswa demanded US$100 million, being a tenth of the US$1 billion he says Mr Rautenbach grossed from his sale of the platinum concessions.
“Our client’s interest in this transaction was agreed as being 10 percent. According we are instructed to demand US$100 million from your client, being 10 percent of the gross proceeds of the disposal of the above concession,” said Cde Mliswa’s lawyers.
On Chisumbanje, he said the media quoted Mr Rautenbach and official sources valuing the ethanol plant and investment in it at US$650 million.
“Accordingly, we are instructed to demand US$65 million from your client, being 10 percent of the value of our client’s interest had your client honoured his undertaking to transfer to our client a shareholding in the venture. This amount should be paid in full on or before 12 noon, on the 21st April, 2010 at our offices.
“All other demands stated in our letter of the 15th February 2010 stand and still require satisfaction by your client. Your client is fully aware of all the other parties who were aware of and or witness to the agreements concluded with our clients relating to the above matters. There is affidavit evidence in this regard.
“Our client is prepared to bring these and other evidence to the fore for the purposes of enforcing his claim against your client.”
The June 4, 2010 letter to Mr Rautenbach’s lawyers sucked in Cdes Mutasa and Nyabadza.
“We advise that during the ensuing period, your client (Mr Rautenbach) held discussion with Mr Basil Nyabadza as well as the Honourable Minister Mutasa regarding our client’s claims. There then followed a meeting on or about 13 May where the aforementioned persons, excluding your client, were present as was our client and the writer.
“Your client, despite being invited to the meeting, declined to attend. We are aware that communication has been made to your client by Mr Nyabadza in an attempt to mediate this dispute to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. It appears, to our client, at least, that your client is in no hurry to resolve this matter at all.”
Mr Mliswa acknowledged payments of US$5 000 per month for his involvement in a labour and criminal dispute at Mr Rautenbach’s Sabot haulage truck business which payments were made by operatiopns manager Gel Miller and managing director Adrian Smart.
“We are advised by our client that he carried out other consultancy work for your client’s interests as represented in Sabot, relating mostly to criminal and labour issues (including a strike by Sabot drivers at the country’s borders). Our client dealt mostly with the operations manager in this regard, Glen Miller as well as the Sabot managing director, Adrian Smart.
“He was paid on average, US$5 000 per month for this work and in addition, fuel and other commodities (including a delivery of tyres by Sabot truck to our client’s farm in Karoi). At all times during this period (2007-2009), our client considered his relationship with your client as that of a business partner in the various undertakings above.”
And for the Hwange deal, Mliswa acknowledges receiving US$10/ tonne for coal and US$5/tonne for coke in cash or kind payments from Mr Saheed Ahmed from number 54 Edinborough Road in Vainona, Ted Edwards the finance director at Sabot and Ms Dora Rautenbach of Pomona Estates, South Africa.
“In business transactions of this nature, particularly those involving delicate and sensitive negotiations, it is rare that any paperwork is prepared to acknowledge the various agreements and undertakings. Everything is based on a mutual trust as was the reason for your client warehousing our client’s interests within his portfolio owing to our client’s involvement,’’ wrote Cde Mliswa’s lawyers to Mr Rautenbach.
“Our client (Cde Mliswa) is disappointed that your client has chosen to breach this trust. He considers that your client’s response is in effect an attempt to take advantage of the lack of a paper trail and signed agreements.
“There are, however, highly placed witnesses privy to your client’s various undertakings and these persons will, in the event of a lawsuit, be subpoenaed to testify. In conclusion, implore upon your good selves to persuade your client to attend a roundtable conference to deal with these various issues once and for all,” Mliswa’s lawyers said.
This was after Mr Rautenbach, through lawyers Ahmed and Ziyambi, denied owing Mr Mliswa anything and asked him to provide proof to back his claims.
Ahmed and Ziymabi wrote to Cde Mliswa’s lawyers on April 27, 2010 saying: “Our instructions are that indeed your client’s claims being formal clearly need to be elaborated further, more so in view of the fact that our client has no personnel directorship, shareholding or interest in: Hwange Colliery, Unki Mine and Middle Sabi/Chisumbanje.
“To this extent based on our strict instructions, our client vehemently and categorically refutes all your client’s claims. What is of concern is the fact that each claim categorised has not been substantiated, despite that relating to complex business transactions, the claims have been set out in a manner that clearly lacks detail and in each instance would appear to be a bald assertion. Our client must but question the reasons for your client’s claims and your client’s bona-fides.”
On the Hwange Colliery deal, Mr Rautenbach’s lawyers said: “From the contents of your client’s letter of demand, your client is seeking details from our client in order to formulate and quantify his claim. This in fact raises the question that if client was intricately involved why then is this information being sought in this manner more particularly from our client.
“For the avoidance of doubt, our client did not acknowledge liability regarding any claim through Mr Tendai Savanhu but based on our instructions, our client requested Mr Savanhu to assist in requesting your client to desist from pursuing this matter which our client is not responsible for.”
Mr Rautenbach also denied involvement in the Unki Mine concession saying “he who alleges must prove” and also dismissed Mr Mliswa’s US$65 million demand on Chisumbanje.
In February 2011, Cde Mliswa suddenly withdrew all claims under unclear circumstances.
By March, he had new lawyers representing him, Chinyama and Partners, and they wrote to Mr Rautenbach’s legal representatives saying, “We have instructions to act for and on behalf of Mr Temba Mliswa in this matter.
“We advise as follows: (1) Our client confirms that he has no claims of any nature whatsoever against Mr CM Rautenbach. (2) Furthermore, each and every claim mentioned in the letters done by his erstwhile legal practitioners Mr GN Mlotshwa and Company are hereby withdrawn per our client’s instructions. (3) We trust that this now settles the issue of any allegations or claims made against your client.”
The letters show Cde Mliswa withdrew his demands after he approached Mr Rautenbach seeking urgent financial help to cover “another deal” but assistance was premised on the cessation of all demands on Mr Rautenbach.