South Africa: Cigarette Tycoon Adam Molai Denies Tobacco Cartel Links In Zimbabwe, Threatens To Sue Maverick Citizen
Businessman Adam Molai has demanded an apology and threatened to sue the Maverick Citizen for alleging that his Pacific Cigarette Company is part of powerful cartels plundering Zimbabwe’s economy and impoverishing the country’s population.
Molai has also threatened legal action on other media houses whose recent report on the alleged “Cartel Power Dynamics in Zimbabwe” has received worldwide attention shaking political and economic players in the country.
Pacific Cigarette is named among the powerful corporates in key economic sectors with strong links to the political elite. The reports claim the cartels collude to make riches at the expense of the poor through entrenching patronage, hindering business competition, slowing down democratisation, and frustrating service delivery.
The Maverick Citizen’s report further estimates that Zimbabwe could be losing up to US$5 billion annually due to corruption-related dealings involving these cartels.
In its report, the Maverick Citizen ascribes the cartels’ business success and acumen to political patronage, a statement that Molai has dismissed as “insulting and offensive” in his case.
Molai says his “hands are clean” and accuses the Maverick Citizen of deliberate bias, claiming he was not afforded opportunity for fair comment.
“I have noted with extreme dismay Maverick Citizen’s references to Pacific Cigarette Company and myself in its Cartel Power Dynamics in Zimbabwe report,” the millionaire businessman said in a statement.
“The allegations are completely untrue and without foundation. We would have made this clear had Maverick Citizen afforded Pacific Cigarette Company or myself the opportunity to respond, as required by the press code and good journalism practice.”
While the Maverick Citizen had claimed, in the editor’s note to the report, to have engaged concerned parties to respond, the business tycoon insists “no attempt was made to contact me or Pacific Cigarette Company”, and dismisses the credibility of the publication.
“We demand that Maverick Citizen retract its baseless allegations as it pertains to Pacific Cigarette Company and me, and tender an apology to us,” Molai said.
“Should Maverick Citizen refuse to do so, we reserve the right to pursue all the legal avenues available to us.”
Molai said he would have clarified critical facts over the matter had he been given prior right of reply. He went on to explain Pacific Cigarette’s relationship with a Chinese state-owned entity, which is one of the bone of contentions in the Maverick Citizen’s report.
He explained: “The ultimate beneficial shareholders in Pacific Cigarette Company are Adam Molai, Gerrit de Jong and Christopher Sambaza through their family trusts. All three shareholders are Zimbabwean citizens.
“Pacific Cigarette Company has a manufacturing agreement with China Tobacco Shaanxi Industrial Corporation, a subsidiary of the Chinese National Tobacco Company, to manufacture cigarettes for the Chinese diaspora in Africa.
“The contract was a first of its kind to have Chinese brands licenced to an African entity; something that should be celebrated not maligned.
“These miscomprehensions between a client and a shareholder happen when journalists resort to inuendo and bar talk as sources of information.”
On accusations of his company’s involvement in smuggling of cigarettes into South Africa, Molai challenged the Maverick Citizen to avail proof saying his business has never been subjected to such investigations.
“Pacific Cigarette Company has never been involved in nor in any way condones cigarette smuggling,” he said.
“Our company is proud of its history of democratising the Zimbabwean tobacco industry through introducing contract farming that increased participation to over 85,000 families.”
While acknowledging close family ties with the late former president Robert Mugabe and his family, the businessman said it was not fair to criminalise him over the issue saying all his success was an outcome of hard work.
“I married President Robert Mugabe’s niece in 1998 and that is my only crime,” he said.
Instead, Molai said his association with the Mugabe family had become a disadvantage to his business interests over the years due to negative perceptions attached to the former first family.
“Contrary to benefiting me, building brands with a Mugabe relationship has been the biggest challenge. Please remember that in the general global business power circles, being his nephew-in-law of which I am very proud and will never deny for any benefit – is crippling for obvious reasons,” he said.
“This difficulty continues to be perpetuated by stories like Maverick Citizen’s, long after his passing.
“We have built and bought more businesses and grown our balance sheet more since President Mugabe was removed from office than whilst he was in office.”
Molai also dismissed claims that he was being investigated over an alleged housing tender scam involving a state entity, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA). He said through Housing Corporation Zimbabwe, they approached NSSA as the largest Zimbabwean pension fund for investment not for a contract.
“NSSA then informed us of their off-take scheme, which they had launched with other development entities.
“It was ventilated in court that NSSA’s procurement policy provisions clearly differentiate between off-take agreements, which are investment decisions taken differently from the procurement of services in the ordinary course of organisational operations,” he said.
The businessman said the matter went to arbitration before the High Court in Zimbabwe, where his company won a US$22 million award.
“We have also been awarded a temporary injunction from the Supreme Court of Mauritius against the assets of NSSA held in Mauritius.
“The Zimbabwe High Court has also found that a forensic audit report on NSSA was biased, inaccurate, untrue and incompetent,” said Molai.
“I’m not under investigation nor was this a procurement contract. I’m happy to defend myself and my and Pacific Cigarette Company’s business track record in any court of law on any of these malicious allegations.”