BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/DARLINGTON MWASHITA
COLD Storage Commission (CSC) employees have called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa to step in and stop alleged asset stripping by a United Kingdom-based investor Boustead Beef (Pvt), claims that have been dismissed by the firm.
In an open letter, the petitioners, who include retrenchees, pensioners and current workers, pleaded with government to investigate the investor.
“Mr President, if possible, set up a small commission of inquiry into this deal comprising lawyers and finance/investment experts to bust this conman. If, indeed, our assessment is correct that Boustead Beef is a scam, then CSC was transferred cheaply and to the wrong person without proper regard to the massive value and income generation capacity of CSC,” the petition read.
In March 2019, government signed an agreement with the UK-based investor to buy into CSC.
Under the deal, Boustead Beef (Pvt) was to also finance the rehabilitation of some CSC farms, where cattle fattening used to take place.
At the time, Boustead Beef (Pvt) promised to complete the resuscitation of CSC within six months before revitalising the Masvingo, Chinhoyi and Marondera branches.
CSC employees called for an audit of the company’s assets.
“There is need for an independent audit up to a cut off point to establish the state of affairs prior to February 22, 2019, the date on which Boustead took over as per the LJFCP [Livestock Joint Farming Concession Project]. Assets verification and documentation is important to safeguard them from plunder through stripping,” the petition by the CSC employees read in part.
“We suspect that after firing the CSC managers, Boustead Beef seeks to destroy all institutional memory of the company, thereby creating a conducive climate to plunder the properties without a trace. In our view, the government must ensure it keeps an audited record of all assets transferred to Boustead Beef in the LJFCP.”
However, Boustead Beef (Pvt) has expressed confidence the company will resume full operations next month after the installation of a three megawatt solar plant, which will be used to power its main plant in Bulawayo in the face of rolling electricity outages.
The firm, which ceased operations and sent employees on forced leave in September 2019 to allow retooling and refurbishments, said it had taken delivery of the solar panels worth $10 million and other ancillary equipment awaiting installation while antiquated equipment and others which have outlived their lifespan have been removed.
Its tanning operations at its Bulawayo’s Wet Blue Industries have resumed less than two months after it was taken out of judiciary management, NewsDay established during a visit to CSC yesterday.
Reggie Shoko, the company’s consultant, said: “It was a retooling process which was taking place at the main abattoir and the canning factory, where we had to replace some of the malfunctioning equipment with new machinery such as the old compressors.
“We are ready to go, though not at a pace that was widely expected as there is a lot of retooling that had to take place. It’s still baby steps, but we are producing, particularly at our tanning factor.”
He added: “There is a lot that we have to deal with, its institutional legacy as a parastatal among others. We are, however, pleased to announce that we have received export orders with our first scheduled for April.”
The company has promised to bring back to life the struggling CSC after promising to inject US$400 million over the next five years to revive the company, which had become dormant in the last two decades.