Mugabe wads into BAT, Savannah 'espionage' row

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s government has “irrefutable evidence” about British American Tobacco (BAT)’s alleged tricks to sabotage local tobacco manufacturers, including Savannah Tobacco (Savannah).

With the Zanu PF leader saying this at the launch of the cigarette multinational’s $20 million empowerment schemes on Wednesday, the company has, however, shot down the claims.

“I am dismayed… that BAT, operating with groups from South Africa, has been taking illicit action against another group called Savannah, undoing competition in such a manner is not acceptable,” the octogenarian leader said.

However, a company spokesperson, said: "We deny allegations that are being made, but at this point… (and as) His Excellency (Mugabe) has said the matter is still under investigation. We will await the outcome of that probe."

According to a dossier prepared by Adam Molai’s Savannah and the country’s security agents, BAT has been allegedly involved in a nasty and uncompetitive espionage war through a raft of South African-based security firms.

Although the European-based group has persistently denied the charges, some of the issues have been subject to a legal spat or fight.

This week, Mugabe also said there was no going back on the indigenisation programme – emphasising his 30-year broad-based empowerment plan launched early this year was in full throttle.

The launch by BAT and other foreign-owned companies such as Anglo Platinum’s Unki Mine of its enhanced indigenisation plan is in line with the Harare administration’s localisation policy compelling foreign-backed firms to cede majority shareholdings to Zimbabweans.

In respect of mining, these companies are obliged to transfer up to 51 percent of their shares. - Ndaka Majaka and Kudzi Chawafambira

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