Takunda Maodza and Mabasa Sasa
BUSINESSMAN Mr Conrad “Billy” Rautenbach yesterday branded Zanu-PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman Cde Temba Mliswa an “extortionist” who victimised him, culminating in the collapse of their relationship.Cde Mliswa — who is also Hurungwe West legislator — is scheduled to clarify his position on the nature of his dealings with Mr Rautenbach at a Press conference in Harare today.
He accuses Mr Rautenbach of using national resources to enrich himself at the State’s expense. Mr Rautenbach, however, says Cde Mliswa tried to fleece him.
“He approached us in the capacity of an investment consultant, but when we realised that he was not sincere in his approach to business and had extortionist tendencies, we immediately cut ties with him and directed all communication through our lawyers. His submissions pertaining to our various projects are baseless falsehoods,” Mr Rautenbach said.
Cde Mliswa has said it was Mr Rautenbach who approached him for assistance to secure the Hwange, Unki and Chisumbanje deals, culminating in his incessant letters of demand. The dealings sucked in Cde Didymus Mutasa, Deputy Lands Minister and Politburo member Cde Tendai Savanhu and Cde Basil Nyabadza.
Deputy Minister Savanhu — who chaired the Hwange Colliery Board at the time he reportedly mediated between Cde Mliswa and Mr Rautenbach — was mum on the matter yesterday when The Herald sought his comment having attempted and failed to get it on Sunday.
“I am not better-placed to comment at the moment. I will respond to The Herald at an appropriate time giving the correct thing,” he said.
Minister Mutasa, on Sunday, said he was aware of a disagreement over the ethanol project but was not involved in any way; while Cde Nyabadza said Cde Mliswa had a penchant for starting “bush fires and I do not know which bush fire he has started now”.
Cde Mutasa is Minister of State in the Office of the President.
Cde Mliswa’s multi-million dollar business ties with Mr Rautenbach through the Chisumbanje ethanol plant, Unki Platinum Mine and Hwange Colliery have strained after the Zanu-PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman demanded at least US$165 million for helping the businessman secure those investments.
Cde Mliswa wanted Mr Rautenbach to pay him US$100 million as his 10 percent shareholding in an Unki Mine concession, which he says Mr Rautenbach improperly sold for US$1 billion to British investors.
Cde Mliswa said he had strong reason to believe that only a portion of that US$1 billion came into Zimbabwe, and was used to start-up operations at Chisumbanje.
Another US$65 million demanded by Cde Mliswa was for a stake in Green Fuel, which is producing ethanol in Chisumbanje.
Cde Mliswa was for a while paid US$10 for every tonne of coal mined at Hwange and US$5 per tonne of coke. A tonne of coal costs no less than US$100.
The coal and coke payments were subsequently stopped precipitating the letters of demands.
Mr Rautenbach’s contract with Hwange was cancelled because, according to Cde Mliswa, he exported the coke instead of supplying it to the thermal power station.
Cde Mliswa also alleges that Green Fuel recently failed to supply ethanol to the local market because Mr Rautenbach had exported four million litres of the product to settle unrelated obligations outside Zimbabwe.
In an interview with The Herald on Sunday, he accused Mr Rautenbach of being “a criminal” who crookedly uses the country’s natural resources for personal benefit.
“I took him to every high-ranking official 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 on a helicopter. What did he think I was doing in that helicopter risking my life? It was not a free ride,” Cde Mliswa said.
He said he linked Mr Rautenbach to his uncle Cde Mutasa and Mines and Mining Development Minister Dr Obert Mpofu.
Letters between Cde Mliswa’s lawyers and Mr Rautenbach’s legal representatives directly name Minister Mutasa, Deputy Minister Savanhu and Cde Nyabadza.
A letter dated April 14, 2010 to Mr Rautenbach’s lawyers says, “… we advise that whereas your client has acknowledged his liability to our client (Cde Mliswa) through a mediator, Mr Tendai Savanhu, no precise figures (of what is owed) has been forthcoming.”
Another missive, on June 4, 2010, states: “We advise that during the ensuing period your client (Mr Rautenbach) held a discussion with Mr Basil Nyabadza as well as the Honorable 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 (lawyer).
“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 the dispute.”