A CONSORTIUM led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ally Robert Gumede has taken control of financially troubled South Africa-headquartered sugar producer Tongaat Hulett.
Tongaat Hulett, an agriculture and agri-processing business with interests in Zimbabwe through its local unit, focuses on sugarcane and maize.
Early this month Tongaat Hulett’s business rescue practitioners confirmed that Gumede’s Terris consortium had entered into an agreement to buy the billions owed by the company to banks, effectively bringing the group a step closer to owning Tongaat.
The company has been in business rescue since 2022 after fraud and corruption collapsed its finances.
Tongaat Hulett was a solid business worth about R23 billion.
According to its website, it currently employs over 38 000 people. Before Gumede’s consortium moved in, Kagera Sugar of Tanzania had emerged as the most preferred bidder for Tongaat, with a deal that hovered around R3 billion.
A few months after long-time leader Robert Mugabe threw in the towel due to pressure from a military-assisted operation, Gumede flew into the country to scout for business opportunities in what was widely seen as signalling his support for Mnangagwa who had taken over the reins.
A day after his arrival, Gumede met with Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga. After the meeting, Gumede told local journalists that he was looking at the possibility of building a five-star resort with a flagship hotel in Victoria Falls.
Before this in 2015, Gumede’s IT firm, Gijima Holdings, was named as one of the 27 companies that submitted bids to supply a traffic monitoring system for the country’s telecoms regulator.
Media reports have also shown that Gumede has in the past shared air flights with Mnangagwa, raising suspicions that the businessman funded the country’s ruling party.
In 2018, Gumede, a South African billionaire, denied allegations that he funded Zimbabwean president-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidential election campaign or donated cars to his Zanu-PF.
This came after The Sunday Times reported that Gumede was said to be one of the key benefactors of the ruling party’s election machinery that delivered victory in the 31 July polls. Mnangagwa had a wafer-thin victory over his arch-rival Nelson Chamisa, then leader of the MDC-Alliance.
The report said according to close sources‚ some of the donated millions were then used to buy about 100 pick-up trucks and two trucks all fitted with public announcement systems.
Gumede said he is an “international businessman” who through his companies‚ “invested in several African countries for many years and in Zimbabwe for over 10 years.”
“There is nothing untoward nor suspicious about my engagements with President Mnangagwa given that I have committed to investing in the country. I love Zimbabwe for the role it played in bringing democracy to South Africa during the struggle led by the ANC”.
Gumede said he answered President Mnagangwa’s call for local and foreign investment as the country was “open for business anchored by economic reforms.” — News Hawks