Zanu (PF) eyes Boka auction floors

tobacco_auctionHARARE - A major dispute has erupted over control of the giant Boka tobacco auction floors amid reports that forces aligned to Zanu (PF) want to take over the lucrative property.

President Robert Mugabe and senior Zanu (PF) officials last month visited the auction floors owned by the family of the late businessman Roger Boka.

Caleb Denga and Wilson Nyabonda, believed to be Zanu (PF) front men, who run the Zimbabwe Industry Tobacco Auction Centre (Zitac), which is renting Boka Auction Floors, recently claimed they now owned the property.

Their claim was refuted by the Boka family lawyer, Joseph Mafusire, of Scanlen and Holderness.

Mafusire told The Zimbabwean that the Boka family were suing Zitac. He said the company was in breach of a 2001, 15-year lease agreement theysigned with a judicial manager who ran the property following the businessman’s death.

Boka died in a sea of debt after the monumental collapse of his United Merchant Bank.

“We’re taking further action but I can’t disclose to you what action we’re taking,” Mafusire said. “My clients don’t want me to disclose that but the case is on at the High Court on Wednesday (tomorrow).

Sources claimed the Boka family wanted Zitac evicted. An arbitrator’s report detailed how Zitac had run down the auction floors once described by the late Boka as the world’s largest and most sophisticated tobacco selling facility.

The industry regulatory body, the Tobacco Industry Marketing Board wrote to Zitac on April 22 threatening to cancel their trading licence for the rest of the 2010 selling season due to what they said was a deterioration of services at the auction floors.

The move could plunge scores of tobacco farmers contracted to Zitac into destitution. Most of their clients are small farmers resettled under Zanu (PF)’s chaotic land reforms.

“Zitac have run down the auction floors and turned them, among other things, into a centre for vice and degenerate activities,” said Mafusire.

“Our clients point out that the centre has been the subject of persistent adverse press reports. Our clients instruct that Zitac have wantonly breached the lease agreement at every turn and that this has resulted in endless litigation, the latest of which was the process of arbitration before Mr Benjamin Mutiti of Mannock Holdings (Pvt) Ltd. The arbitrator found Zitac to have been in serious breach of the lease agreement. Our clients have been awarded an interim order (on April 7).”

Boka, who rose to notoriety in the 1990s championing what many saw as a patently racist black empowerment campaign plummeted into bankruptcy after government ministers and top Zanu (PF) officials raided his UMB, drawing millions of dollars in unsecured loans which they failed to pay. Hounded by creditors and in poor health, Boka fled to the United States where he died aboard his expensive private jet. His assets were placed under judicial management and stripped piece by piece by the government.

Zanu (PF) has now amassed a vast array of businesses especially by driving entrepreneurs into the ground and then looting their companies under the pretext of saving them from collapse. Their octopus-like empire now spans mining, banking, manufacturing, retail, technology, airline catering, motor vehicles, property and many other sectors.

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