All Mugabe's Men
The Zimbabwean leader is turning his fire on the white population, but some of his key supporters have a distinctly pale shade.
 
 
Zimbabwean President Mugabe has turned to the race card in an attempt to save his political life. The images in the newspapers and on TV screens in recent weeks have demonstrated the effects of his policy of turning his supporters against white farmers in an attempt to distract attention from his country's collapsing economy and the rampant corruption within his government.

But this exercise in scapegoating is not the only scaffolding Mugabe is using to hold up his wobbly regime. His government is being kept in power and its corrupt wheels oiled be the income from diamonds that Mugabe's military is plundering from the war ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The irony is that the real power in this operation lies in the hands of a group powerful, shadowy, extremely wealthy white men. Without the backing of these secretive international players, Mugabe's government would crumble to dust. Some of these key players live not in the DRC, nor even in Harare, but the quiet, leafy surroundings of the Home Counties.

Last month, one such player was exposed in the House of Lords. John Bredenkamp of Sunningdale, Berkshire, was named as being involved in brokering substantial arms shipments from countries such as Bulgaria to Zimbabwe for probable use in the Congo.

The war in the DRC involves no fewer than nine African nations and has been dubbed by some political analysts "Africa's First World War". It has destroyed the economy of the DRC, a country the size of Western Europe with vast mineral resources. Millions of people have been killed and millions more made homeless.

A third of Zimbabwe's army is now fighting in the DRC, supporting the government of president Laurent Kabila and in return Zimbabwe's leadership has staked out the country's estimated 39 billion pounds in mineral wealth including gold, copper, diamonds and cobalt.

However, a potent mix of incompetence, rampant corruption and difficulties in obtaining the finance needed for mining operations has so far stalled the plan, save for the easily accessible diamonds.

According to South African intelligence sources, John Bredenkamp, who administers his world-wide business empire from offices in Hurst, near Reading, is Zimbabwe's main arms procurer and has provided arms, helicopters and pilots to the Congo. His personal fortune, owned through off shore trusts, is estimated at well over 440 million pounds.

Once in charge of the financial affairs of the Rhodesian Defence Forces, Bredenkamp was involved in sanctions busting for the Smith regime in return for a highly lucrative concession to export tobacco from Rhodesia. He went on to turn his company, Casalee, into a multi-million pound empire with offices around the world, including Windsor.

Casalee's business dealings were often racked with controversy. In the early Nineties, documents came to light which indicated that Casalee had acted as an intermediary in the sale of anti-personnel mines to Iraq. The Belgian authorities, which subsequently investigated the allegations, suspected Casalee of being deeply involved with MI5, which historically has special responsibility for former colonies such as Zimbabwe.

A few years ago, a Swiss lawyer, Ulrich Kohli, who handled administrative paperwork for Casalee AG, seemed to confirm this. He told a journalist that MI5 were the "organizers" behind Casalee, which had somehow also got itself entangled with arms dealing to Iran.

Bredenkamp has always denied that Casalee was involved in the arms trade. In 1993, he bailed out of Casalee, netting 70 million pounds in the process. Soon after, Bredenkamp set up Breco Services, which is ultimately owned, via an Isle of Man company, by family trusts. The boss of Casalee UK remains, Jacobus Coetzee, the former boss of Armscor, the notorious South African apartheid era state arms company, who now also lives in Sunningdale, close to Bredenkamp.

A Breco subsidiary, Masters International, manages several well known cricketers, rugby players and golfers, as well as Gary Kasparov, the Russian chess master. For a short time, the company managed golfer Nick Price. The group also has property interests. A few years ago Bredenkamp tried to buy Nottingham Forest football club.

Bredenkamp has remained loyal to his native Zimbabwe. Last year when Zimbabwe was beset with yet another fuel crisis, Bredenkamp, through a company called Zimalzam, offered to provide fuel by rail from South Africa. The deal went sour and led to a flurry of allegations of deliberately inflated tenders, over which Zimalzam is now suing.

Allegations over inflated or dubious contracts are nothing new in Zimbabwe. Over the years, many of them have centred on Mugabe himself, who remains close to Bredenkamp, and who controls a string of businesses and concessions in Zimbabwe through the main political party, Zanu PF.

It is also known that Mugabe's first wife had property in the Netherlands and in the UK, and that the family owns several farms and houses in and around Harare. But the records cannot be found.

Mugabe's second wife Grace, borrowed thousands of pounds from a government low income housing scheme financed by a US aid programme. The scheme was supposed to help people living on the bread line, but instead it was used to build luxury mansions for Zimbabwe's wealthy elite.

One of the contractors for Grace's mansion was an offshore company called, appropriately enough, Hazy Investments. The company (which has no track record with building international airports) also won the multimillion pound contract to build a new international airport in Harare. Its representative was Mugabe's nephew, Leo, who some say is the "clearing house" and the front for a lot of businesses the president himself is alleged to own. Leo also hit the jackpot as part of a consortium which was awarded a licence for a mobile phone network. In both cases, the government rescinded earlier decisions by its own tender board. An attempted investigation into alleged kickbacks to government ministers in the airport deal has so far been stalled.

The ongoing economic crisis has increased the importance of the Congo to Zimbabwe. But, although the former Belgian colony has vast strategic mineral resources, it needs outside help to unlock the treasure chest. Not surprisingly, mining companies are reluctant to work in the Congo.

However, this has not deterred Kabila from handing out mining concessions to prominent members of the Zimbabwe government and military.

John Makumbe, a political science lecturer in Zimbabwe, told PUNCH: "A number of government officials, particularly ministers and guys in the military, have a lot of business with the DRC in terms of mining. It is all done very secretly".

However, from the little that we do know, Zimbabwe's defence industry has done particularly well out of Kabila's deals. The head of Zimbabwe Defence Industry, Colonel Tshinga Dube, has a lucrative 39 million pound contract to supply provisions, uniforms, boots and ammunition to Congolese troops. A trucking company, owned by the chief of the Zimbabwean army, allegedly has the contract to move troops and supplies from ZDI into the Congo.

Potentially much more lucrative are the deals for mineral rights. These were allegedly offered by Kabila to Mugabe himself. However, getting the minerals out of the ground has proven difficult.

In 1998, when Kabila met Mugabe to discuss ways of paying for Zimbabwe's military support, Mugabe recommended the services of Billy Rautenback, a former rally driver who controls a vast business empire in Southern Africa, through a company registered in the British Virgin Islands called Ridgepoint Overseas Development Ltd.

Rautenbach was put in charge of the Congo's stationed copper mining company, Gecamines, and told to arrange finance so that mining operations could begin. As an inducement, his own company, Centre Mining Group, was given valuable mining concessions at Kababankola for cobalt, and Shituri for ore processing.

But, by all accounts, Rautenbach failed to get the finance needed. In an apparently unrelated matter, his offices in South Africa have been raided no fewer than three times by the South African Police's Serious Crimes Squad. Now, he is out of favour and in hiding.

Rautenbach's failure to get finance has left the Zimbabweans relying on the easily accessible diamonds. Again, ministers and members of the military are benefiting personally from these deals. A senior Zimbabwean air force executive allegedly has a diamonds-for-arms deal in the bag, and the Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, is also said to be involved. Many believe that Mnangagwa is the man who will step into Mugabe's shoes when he eventually goes, as one way or the other he will. A point in Mnangagwa's favour is his close association with none other than John Bredenkamp.

The diamond area in the Congo has some 10,000 Zimbabwean troops stationed around it. Reputedly, every week, two chartered jets fly from Kinshasa in the DRC to an airport in Belgium, The planes bring with them packets of diamonds, which are then sold on the Antwerp diamond market. The proceeds go towards the cost of the war.

Diamonds are also funding the rebel armies backed by Rwanda and Uganda, which have mysteriously joined the list of diamond exporting nations, even though they have no indigenous deposits.

Meanwhile, the arms run to the Congo continues unhindered, paid for in part by the diamond run to Antwerp. The European Union could probably stop the war in Central Africa at a stroke, simply by impounding the planes. Yet the truth is that some very powerful Europeans have an interest in the continuation of this particular war. The pawns are Mugabe and President Kabila, the prize is the Congo's vast mineral wealth, and during the match there is money to be had from the Congo's killing fields.
NC

First published in Punch magazine, May 2000.

 
Terms and Conditions of use
 
 
'A number of government officials have mining business with the Congo. It's all done secretly'
 

Billionaire singer Michael Jackson likes to be known for his love of children and his commitment to world peace. Two years ago he founded an international charity called the World Peace Foundation for Children, to which he promised to donate the proceeds of a series of concerts. He has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize for his humanitarian efforts around the world.

The last thing you would expect is for Jackson to accept the hospitality of an arms company, which is profiting from a murderous war affecting the lives of thousands of children. But that was exactly what Jackson did when he visited Zimbabwe as a guest of the country’s state-owned arms manufacturer, Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI), in November 1998. Jackson was part of a delegation from an American investment group, called United Pacific Holdings (UPH), in which he has a stake, together with his business partner, the millionaire casino-owner Don Barden.

Shortly after arriving in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, Jackson met senior officials from Zimbabwe’s ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs. That same evening, he attended a lavish cocktail party hosted by Colonel Tshinga Dube, the boss of ZDI and one of the alleged beneficiaries of the lucrative deals made by Democratic Republic of Congo President Laurent Kabila to keep arms and military supplies flowing into the DRC.

Colonel Dube told local journalists that Jackson and the UPH delegation were visiting the country at ZDI's express invitation, to explore investment opportunities. UPH has diversified manufacturing, trading and energy interests throughout Africa. ZDI, meanwhile, has a factory in Harare, and makes small arms, ammunition and bullet-proof vests. Its biggest market is the DRC, where, in some instances, children as young as 13, armed with AK 47s, are fighting rebel forces opposed to Kabila’s government.

If Jackson and Barden’s plan was to benefit and enrich the lives of children with the help of the government and military leadership of Zimbabwe they were plainly labouring under an illusion. The United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that more than 300,000 children have been displaced by the war in the Congo.

It says that, since August 1998, both sides have recruited thousands of children between the ages of nine and 15 with many of them ended up on the front line. Scores have been left to fend for themselves on the streets of the capital Kinshasa and other towns when soldiers could no longer afford to feed them. Many thousands more are working in deplorable conditions in Congolese diamond and mineral workings. UNICEF has asked for £3 million in funding to tackle the problem.

 
 
Go to NC Links
 
Go to Agit
 
 
Web site design, graphics and all content Copyright © Pete Sawyer 2001-2005 unless otherwise stated.