A TENSE meeting between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Innscor Africa shareholders over allegations of fuelling currency volatilities rocking the market had a chilling effect after Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga reportedly issued a strong warning against the conglomerate, saying government would treat “economic saboteurs” as enemies of the state.
This was revealed by highly placed sources who told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that Chiwenga’s threats left the business executives “shaken”.
Chiwenga, a former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, reportedly told Innscor bosses to “shape up or ship out”.
The company has a bold footprint with numerous investments in the fast food sector under Simbisa Brands, National Foods, Irvines, Associated Meat Packers, Prodairy, NatPak, Profeeds, Probottlers, Colcom Foods and National Foods Logistics. It also wholly owns the Botswana Milling and Produce Company.
The meeting comes at a time Mnangagwa’s administration has declared war on what it perceives to be “saboteurs”, frustrating its efforts to turn around Zimbabwe’s fragile economy choked by spiking inflation, currency turbulence and skyrocketing prices.
With Zimbabwe effectively now buffeted by inflationary headwinds, the southern African country swung into the triple figure inflation zone, which saw figures rising to 256% in July from 191,6% in June.
The highly charged meeting, held at Munhumutapa Building, which houses the President’s offices arose over delays by Innscor to settle a hefty loan to various financial institutions, believed to be running into billions of dollars, sources told the Independent.
The explosive meeting was held in May this year, shortly after fiscal and monetary authorities directed financial institutions to suspend lending to its customers, as the government stepped up efforts to stop the economy from haemorrhaging.
In separate briefings, sources said at the meeting chaired by Mnangagwa, Innscor’s proprietors (names supplied) were summoned to explain their borrowing history. The state blamed high parallel foreign currency exchange rates to excessive borrowing.
As narrated by sources, a livid Chiwenga, reportedly ordered Innscor bosses to put their house in order or risk consequences of being treated as enemies of the state.
“During the tense discussions, Chiwenga went ballistic. He told the Innscor proprietors that he wanted them to commit to a holistic solution with Mnangagwa.
“In blunt terms, and evoking his military background to the visibly frightened executives, Chiwenga told them that, ‘I am a soldier, and I consider economic saboteurs as enemies. For every enemy there is a bullet,” a source who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
At that stage of the meeting, sources added, the company’s shareholders then pleaded for time to settle the several amounts owed to various banks.
“After Chiwenga bellowed his orders to the executives, the frightened Innscor shareholders pleaded for clemency and requested time to come up with a repayment plan,” another top government official said.
“As we speak, Innscor is repaying the debt to the banks.”
Officials from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Treasury and other government departments are said to have attended the hostile meeting, according to the sources.
Innscor board chairperson Addington Chinake, after being quizzed on the agenda and outcome of the said meeting, referred questions to President Mnangagwa’s office.
“I am not available, (I am) outside Zimbabwe. Kindly contact the Presidium for comment,” Chinake said in a brief response texted on WhatsApp. Efforts to get a comment from Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda were in vain as his phone went unanswered.
The reported meeting comes barely two years after Chiwenga summarily fired all nurses who had embarked on industrial action over low salaries while threatening to do the same against doctors.
The development follows reports that a crack team drawn from law enforcement agents had launched a probe into business executives suspected of destabilising the economy through currency manipulating and undermining government efforts to arrest inflation and skyrocketing prices.
High-level officials the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), and the Special AntiCorruption Unit in the Office of the President and Cabinet (Sacu) also confirmed the crackdown.
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi also confirmed the investigations adding that the police would issue full details while sources said a number of business executives had been summoned by the ZRP Criminal Investigations Department’s (CID) Commercial Crimes Division in connection with investigations into economic sabotage in Zimbabwe. Insccor was one of the companies identified by the FIU for fuelling speculative borrowing on the market after accessing billions in loans.
Source – the independent