Harare – President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday accused British American Tobacco [JSE:BTI] (BAT) of using criminal means to kill its major competitor, locally-owned Savanna Tobacco, in Zimbabawe.
Speaking at the ongoing Economic Empowerment conference Mugabe said he had authentic information from his weekly intelligence briefings linking BAT to the disappearance of savanna Tobacco’s delivery trucks.
“These are briefings we hear at our intelligence meetings every week and if this is what you are doing in order to kill competition and you do it in a bad way somebody will answer for it,” Mugabe said.
“It’s a huge case and it might affect you very soon,” he added.
“I hear money was being paid to the police so that they do not do their jobs well and this appears authentic.”
Last week, local media reports said BATZ competitors – Kingdom, Savanna Tobacco, Breco, Cutrag, Trednet and Chelsea – had lost cigarettes valued at R100m to armed hijackers in just over a year while none of BATZ’s products have been hijacked, prompting its competitors to believe the largest cigarette manufacturer in the country was involved in industrial espionage and possible sabotage.
Meanwhile BAT officially handed over a 20% stake to indigenous Zimbabweans.
The company handed over a 10% stake with about $10m at a currently share value of around $4.50 per share to an employee share scheme and another 10% to a Tobacco Trust.
The company also donated six tractors to the country’s major tobacco producing provinces and 50 laptops to Mugabe’s presidential computerisation scheme.