Ministers clash over Meikles seizure

A CLASH is looming between Co-Home Affairs Ministers Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa over the specification of Kingdom Meikles Africa Limited, with counter accusations now flying around between the two.

A fortnight ago, Government froze the assets of Kingdom Meikles, Tanganda Tea Company (Pvt) Ltd, Thomas Meikles Centre (Pvt) Ltd and Murlis Investments (Pvt) Ltd, all of which are linked to the Meikles empire, on allegations of externalising foreign currency.

Ministers Mohadi and Mutsekwa ordered the specification as per the constitutional prerogative and proceeded to appoint Messrs Budhama and Cleopas Mukungunugwa as investigators of the companies.

However, Minister Mutsekwa went on to meet emissaries of Mr John Moxon — the face of the Meikles empire — without Minister Mohadi’s knowledge and subsequently issued a public statement saying he would work for the company’s de-specification.

Mr Moxon is a former chairman of KMAL and was also specified in January this year, but is now based in South Africa.

Details have emerged that the government moved after Kingdom Meikles CEO Nigel Chanakira – set to be ousted in a board meeting this week – filed a complaint accusing Meikles’ biggest shareholder, John Moxon, of “externalising” US$21 million in breach of exchange control regulations.

The externalisation charge relates to the disposal of some of the company’s assets in South Africa, including the Cape Grace hotel. The move supported by Moxon and opposed by Chanakira. Proceeds from the transactions were never repatriated to Zimbabwe but kept in foreign bank accounts, according to Chanakira’s complaint.

Home Affairs co-Ministers Mutsekwa, of the Movement for Democratic Change, and Kembo Mohadi, of Zanu PF, both signed a specification order placing the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed US$90m company under government control.

In a stunning admission, Mutsekwa has now revealed he signed the order without a full understanding of the political and boardroom undercurrents in the Kingdom Meikles saga and after only listening to Chanakira because he is a CHRISTIAN.

Mutsekwa said: “What has been taking place is that we have been listening to only one person who is an aggrieved character and we took it for granted, being a Christian, everybody thought he was up to his word.

“But, however, ever since the gazetting of that instrument the other side has also approached me and we have held various high level meetings and I now understand that it was not all that I was being told by the first side that is correct and I appreciate the issue much better.”

Yesterday, Minister Mohadi said he was not aware that his counterpart had met Mr Moxon’s emissaries and stressed that KMAL remained specified and there was "no change of heart" on the part of the Government in that regard.

"I am not aware of the meetings. He has not informed me about it.

"There is no change of heart. They are under specification and what I know is that we both signed for their specification," Minister Mohadi said.

In a recent interview with SW Radio Africa, Minister Mutsekwa said he met Mr Moxon’s emissaries and confessed his desire to push for the companies’ de-specification as soon as possible.

Minister Mutsekwa also confessed having received representations over the KMAL saga from MDC-T, which has made it clear that it is against the specification because it "tarnishes" Zimbabwe’s image as an investment destination.

However, Reserve Bank Governor Dr Gideon Gono last week made it clear that the KMAL issue was a domestic affair and international investors need not feel apprehension over the move.

Minister Mutsekwa said: "I have since had various visits from people concerned who have come to me and who have explained to me the other side of the story.

"Apparently what has been taking place is that we have been listening to only one person who is an aggrieved character and we took it for granted, being a Christian, everybody thought he was up to his word.

"But, however, as I am saying, ever since the gazetting of that instrument the other side has also approached me and we have held various high-level meetings and I now understand that it was not all that I was being told by the first side that is correct and I appreciate the issue much better."

He said he met the emissaries soon after the specification order was gazetted and Mr Moxon had given his assurance that he would repay whatever he had externalised.

Minister Mutsekwa added: "So I’m happy as the minister that everything is on course and I am advised if people concerned take certain procedures so we rectify the issue."

He said Mr Moxon’s emissaries realised the gravity of their offence.

Minister Mutsekwa said KMAL had externalised US$21 million.