Zanu-PF Mashonaland West chairman Mr Temba Mliswa is now demanding US$15 million in defamation reparations from business tycoon Mr Conrad “Billy” Rautenbach for allegedly calling him an “extortionist”. In the potentially explosive case, now unfolding after Mr Mliswa claimed Mr Rautenbach owes him US$165 million for securing critical stakes in three major business ventures, the vocal politician gave the businessman up to last Thursday to respond.
Mr Mliswa, through his lawyer, Mr Jonathan Samkange of Venturas and Samkange, said he would take the matter to court after they did not hear from Mr Rautenbach.
Mr Rautenbach could not be reached for comment yesterday.
“Our client’s claim for damages is in the sum of US$15 million for defamation of character,” said Mr Samkange in a letter to the multi-millionaire.
“Unless we hear from you as to how you intend to settle our client’s claims by no later than noon 10th of April 2014, summons will be issued against you without any further warning.”
Mr Samkange said his client was entitled to the damages after his reputation was tainted by an article in The Herald, which quoted Mr Rautenbach calling him an extortionist.
“We act on behalf of our above-named client, who is the Member of Parliament for Hurungwe West. He has instructed us to demand payment for damages arising from your defamatory statement published in The Herald of the 1st of April 2014. This article appeared on the front page as the lead story.
“You accused our client of being an ‘extortionist’. In the article you further claimed that our client victimised you. These allegations are false, malicious and defamatory. The statement was designed to injure the reputation of our client, who is the Member of Parliament for Hurungwe West and the chairman of Zanu-PF Mashonaland West Province.”
He added: “The article was widely read both in the print media and electronic media, making it accessible throughout the world.
“This has brought embarrassment and humiliation to our client, family, friends and fellow legislators. When you caused this article to be published you were fully aware of the effect it would have on our client. It is clear from the article that you intended to injure our client’s good name and reputation.”
The dramatic fall-out between Mr Rautenbach and Mr Mliswa emerged after the Hurungwe West legislator claimed that the businessman owed him US$165 million for the role he played in securing the former’s business interests in Chisumbanje Ethanol Plant, Unki Platinum Mines and Hwange Colliery Company.
He claimed to have facilitated meetings with high-ranking officials who include Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa; Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Obert Mpofu, who was then the Minister of Mines and Mining Development, as well as Deputy Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Mr Tendai Savanhu, who was the chairman of Hwange Colliery.
He also claimed that Arda chairman Mr Basil Nyabadza facilitated the Chisumbanje deal in exchange for an upmarket house in Mutare.
Minister Mutasa and Mr Nyabadza have since distanced themselves from the matter.
Mr Mliswa demanded US$100 million as his 10 percent shareholding in a Unki Mine concession, which, he says, Mr Rautenbach improperly sold for US$1 billion to British investors.
He said there was strong reason to believe that only a portion of that US$1 billion came into Zimbabwe, and was used to start up operations at Chisumbanje.
The legislator claimed that the additional US$65 million was for a stake in Green Fuel, the company producing ethanol in Chisumbanje.
For some time, Mr Mliswa was paid US$10 for every tonne of coal mined at Hwange and US$5 per tonne of coke.
A tonne of coal costs no less than US$100.
The coal and coke payments were later stopped and Mr Rautenbach’s contract with Hwange was cancelled because, according to the party provincial chairman, he exported the coke instead of supplying it to Hwange Thermal Power Station.
Mr Mliswa also alleges that Green Fuel recently failed to supply ethanol to the market because Mr Rautenbach had exported four million litres of the product to settle unrelated obligations outside Zimbabwe.
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