Parly to summon tobacco manufacturers

Chengetai Zvauya

ZIMBABWE’S Parliament is expected to summon tobacco players next year to fully understand an unfolding drama surrounding British America Tobacco’s  (BAT) alleged espionage saga and dirty tricks that have ravaged the multi-million dollar industry.

Moses Jiri, Parliament’s agriculture committee chairperson, said parliament had developed a keen interest in the unfolding drama.

“We are going to summon all the players in the industry and get to the bottom of the matter as we are reading cases of espionage in the press. The problem in the sector is that we are exporting a lot of tobacco, and this is why we are having stories of espionage,” said Jiri.

While security authorities have already instituted a probe into the delicate matter, those expected to appear before the committee, include Lovemore Manatsa’s BAT, Fodya (Private) Limited, Adam Molai’s Savanna Tobacco (Savanna) and other small players.

“We want to know how these big companies are doing their business of exporting tobacco. Everyone in the tobacco industry is very concerned, we shall have to look at the portfolio diary and try to accommodate them,” said Jiri.

Parliament’s involvement comes after President Robert Mugabe flung open the debate about multinational companies’ involvement in an uncompetitive war bordering on espionage and other unsavoury practices against local players.

In reading the riot act on BAT in particular, the veteran leader threatened unspecified action against the European-backed firm after hinting Harare had “irrefutable evidence” on the company’s alleged tricks to sabotage local manufacturers.

But, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed cigarette maker, has flatly denied foul play.

Manatsa’s company has not only said it does not export any cigarette products, but the recent approval of its indigenisation plan means it’s fully compliant with the country’s laws. “BAT… strongly denies any involvement in industrial espionage and or any illegal activity that may be linked to other local tobacco manufacturers,” it said in a recent statement.

“Whilst BAT Zimbabwe is a subsidiary… its cigarette operations and management control are confined to the manufacture, marketing and distribution of cigarettes for domestic consumption within the borders of Zimbabwe,” it said, adding it only exports semi-processed tobacco leaf.

Crucially, the company supports open and fair competition by basing its operational strategies “on legitimate market research” and, therefore, firmly denies using illegal tactics.

“… in addition to our own internal governance on responsible market place practices, we are confident that our business activities are ethical, transparent and legitimate,” the company said.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.