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Zanu PF succession war - Tycoon caught in the middle

Nelson Banya, Zimbabwe Financial Gazette 15/6/06

Business mogul John Bredenkamp, who has been caught up in the vicious Zanu PF succession wars, incurred the wrath of Emmerson Mnangagwa after he turned to Solomon Mujuru to save his imperiled Zimbabwean business interests. Mujuru and Mnangagwa are bitter rivals that lead feuding Zanu PF factions fighting to succeed President Robert Mugabe. Bredenkamp is now frantically working to clear himself after Zimbabwean law enforcement agencies subsequently launched a joint probe into his business dealings amid allegations of violating exchange control and immigration regulations. The businessman, who strenuously denies state media reports that he fled the country last week as police, National Economic Conduct Inspectorate (NECI) and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe investigators descended on his Harare offices and Thetford farm in Mazowe, might have fallen victim to a tug-of-war between Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former ally and Mujuru, who both head dominant Zanu PF factions. The investigations, according to sources, have failed to unearth anything that sticks, confirming suspicions that the raids were politically motivated. Mujuru, a retired army general, is credited with crafting his wife’s surprise rise to become state and ruling party Vice President in 2004, at Mnangagwa’s expense. At the time, Bredenkamp was reported to have supported Mnangagwa’s bid for higher office by laying on his private jet and donating cash, but this has since been disproved. The two men had long fallen out before the fateful Tsholotsho meeting in November 2004.

Bredenkamp, who has since lost Mnangagwa’s patronage to Billy Rautenbach, of the Wheels of Africa fame, is reported to have recently shifted his allegiance to the Mujuru faction, having held meetings with the retired army general. With President Robert Mugabe expected to retire in 2008, the two factions’ tussle for the ultimate prize has entered a decisive phase that threatens to tear apart Zanu PF, which has been in power since 1980. Sources close to Bredenkamp say he blames Mnangagwa, who as State Security Minister was instrumental in facilitating the tycoon’s return to Zimbabwe in 1982, for his present woes. They said Mnangagwa, who is now Rural Housing Minister after his political fortunes took a dip as Joice Mujuru appeared to surge ahead in the succession race, might have been unnerved by Bredenkamp’s overtures to his nemesis. "Quite frankly, it does seem to be more than just a coincidence. What people do not realise is that John and Emmerson fell out long before Tsholotsho, after Mnangagwa stabbed John in the back and pushed Billy (Rautenbach) back into the (Democratic Republic of) Congo at John’s expense. John has met Rex to say ‘Look, this is all in the past now. I am no longer with Emmerson.’ Clearly, when one considers the inter-factional fight in Zanu PF, and how these investigations just blew up in our face, a picture of a plot emerges," one source said.

Sources close to developments have revealed how Bredenkamp, whose entry into the lucrative DRC mining industry was made possible by Mnangagwa after Rautenbach fell out with the late Laurent Kabila, was embittered when, after Kabila’s assassination in January 2001, Mnangagwa turned around and facilitated Rautenbach’s return to favour with the new government in Kanshasa. Rautenbach, who once occupied a powerful position at the helm of state mining firm La Generale des Carrieres et des Mines (Gecamines) and had several copper and cobalt deposits, was kicked out of the DRC by the late Kabila and lost his mineral concessions. He however, came back into the picture following Kabila’s assassination, with a 50 percent share of Bredenkamp’s Kababankola Mining Company (KMC) and has only recently exchanged his stake in a multi-million pound deal for shares in a listed British mining firm, Central African Mining & Exploration Company (CAMEC). Rautenbach is reported to own almost 20 percent of the Alternative Investment Market-listed CAMEC. Led by Zambian-born former England cricketer Phil Edmonds and Andrew Groves, CAMEC is one of Britain’s fastest growing companies. Its stock grew by 700 percent last year alone. Bredenkamp associates speak of ‘an acrimonious legal battle’ between the rival Dutchmen over the DRC mining rights, saying Rautenbach tried, with Mnangagwa’s assistance, to muscle him out of the mining venture.

While Bredenkamp cannot put it beyond his rival to instigate last week’s raid, Rautenbach also accuses him of embarking on a smear campaign to impugn his CAMEC deal. ‘The whole affair smacks of what one might call a middle-level plot to embarrass and scare John out of the country. The nature of this inter-factional fighting is such that one camp seeks to liquidate businessmen considered unsupportive, even hostile, to their bid," the source said. "John left on Tuesday morning, through normal departure procedures at the Harare International Airport, because he had an appointment with a specialist. No one told him he could not leave. Do you think they would have let him go if a serious probe was on? It does actually appear as if someone was waiting for him to leave and then move in and try to scare him out of coming back." It is also suspected that some heavyweight within Zanu PF and the government could be targeting expropriating Bredenkamp’s property in Mazowe. Another prominent businessman, Mutumwa Mawere, who was previously aligned to Mnangagwa, was forced out of the country in 2004 and lost his extensive business empire after a fallout with the Zanu PF stalwart. Mawere, who has since launched a legal challenge against the expropriation of his assets by the state, has claimed he was being victimized for refusing to support Mnangagwa’s bid for the presidency.

Bredenkamp, who used his experience in the tobacco industry to establish and grow the Casalee group of companies into the fifth largest tobacco enterprise in the world at one time, has ventured into the horticulture, leisure, property and petroleum sectors following the US$100 million sale of Casalee to Universal Leaf Tobacco in 1993. A Rhodesian rugby captain between 1965-1968, Bredenkamp was linked to Ian Smith’s sanction-busting machinery and became persona non grata upon Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, before his return a couple of years after independence. Although he has warned white Zimbabweans to stay out of politics, he has been close to the ruling Zanu PF ever since his return to the country. Officials in Bredenkamp’s office, who said they were co-operating with the investigators, have said he is currently in the United Kingdom on business.

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