Business Development Opinions

Maverick Citizen’s allegations about Pacific Cigarette Company vindictive, without foundation

Adam Molai

By Adam Molai

I have noted with extreme dismay Maverick Citizen’s references to Pacific Cigarette Company and myself in its Cartel Power Dynamics in Zimbabwe “expose”.

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. In fact, the “note from the editor” which precedes the report asserts: “Maverick Citizen provided prior notice and the opportunity for those referred to in the report to respond to its findings before publication.” 

This is false – there was absolutely no attempt made to contact me or Pacific Cigarette Company. This fundamental flaw in its process taints the credibility of the report.

I have been resident in South Africa for years and have been openly engaged on several South African media platforms in the last six months – so it is not as if the report’s authors could not find me.

We demand that Maverick Citizen retract its baseless allegations as it pertains to Pacific Cigarette Company and me, and tender an apology to us.

Should Maverick Citizen refuse to do so, we reserve the right to pursue all the legal avenues available to us.

The facts of the matter are these – which we would have gladly explained had we been approached for comment:

False Claim 1: Pacific cigarettes has a Chinese state owned entity as a shareholder 

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 licensed to an African entity; something that should be celebrated not maligned.

False Claim 2: The majority of cigarettes smuggled into South Africa are Pacific cigarettes

No such proof has ever been furnished and we are not and have never been the subject of any investigations.

Cigarette smuggling is a global phenomenon which has been in existence since the advent of the industry and long before Pacific Cigarette Company came into being to challenge the monopoly that existed.

Pacific Cigarette Company has never been involved in nor in any way condones cigarette smuggling. 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.  

False Claim 3: Pacific was a part of a “Mugabe patronage system”

I married President Robert Mugabe’s niece in 1998 and that is my only “crime”.

I come from a business family and am 3rd generation in business, something that less than 1% of Africans can profess. Long before I met and married my wife, I attended the best private schools in Zimbabwe, the UK’s most expensive and only private university and one of Canada’s leading business schools, as my father was a pound sterling millionaire before the advent of Zimbabwe’s independence.

I have never bid for a tender anywhere in the world. My businesses were generally started from scratch, or I have taken stakes in existing enterprises.

Contrary to benefiting me, building brands with a Mugabe relationship has been the biggest challenge. This difficulty continues to be perpetuated by stories like Maverick Citizen’s, long after his demise.

False Claim 4: Adam Molai is under investigation for a state contract that at law was required to go to tender 

I am not under investigation nor was this a procurement contract.

One of our investments, Housing Corporation Zimbabwe, approached the National Social Security Agency (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.

This matter has gone to arbitration in Zimbabwe, and even to the High Court and we have a US$22-million award in our favour which is an order of the court.

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.

In its report, Maverick Citizen ascribes my business success and acumen to political patronage. This is insulting and offensive. It ignores the reality that, together with the many competent, multi-national professionals who make up my various teams, I have built and bought more businesses and grown our balance sheet more since President Robert Mugabe was removed from office than whilst he was in office.

I am incredibly proud of our collective achievements which have been the result of vision, hard work and grit.

I am 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.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende