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Shadowy giant in Zim tobacco trade Roger Boka, the

most controversial man in Zimbabwe, won’t give interviews. But a phone call to his office is revealing enough

Roger Boka is a mysterious Zimbabwean businessman who has taken out full-page advertisements in the state-controlled newspapers calling for the “indigenisation” of the country’s agricultural and industrial sectors.

The origin of his wealth is not generally known but he is being being investigated by the Zimbabwean police in connection with buying stolen gold.

This year Boka began developing a multi-million rand tobacco floor on the outskirts of Harare to sell Zimbabwe’s crop. Zimbabwe already has the largest tobacco auction floor in the world, but it and the industry are dominated by white growers and merchants. Boka wants to change all that and says his floors will eventually control the tobacco scene in Zimbabwe.

He has steadfastly refused to be interviewed by the media, particularly white journalists.

Horizon, Zimbabwe’s bravest news magazine, interviewed a man at Boka’s office who called himself “Mr Mabhunu,” but whom the interviewer, Ray Choto, suspected was Boka himself.

Ray Choto: May I please speak to Mr Boka?

Reply: May I know who is calling?

RC: My name is Ray Choto, a journalist at Horizon magazine.

Reply: Hold on, I will put you through to him [pause … some inaudible voice says something]. I am sorry, Mr Boka is not in the office. Let me put you through to someone else.

Mabhunhu: Can I help you?

RC: My name is Ray Choto, a journalist at Horizon. May I please speak to Mr Boka?

Mabhunhu: Mr Boka doesn’t want to speak to people like you. He is a busy man trying to better his life.

RC: Are you speaking for Mr Boka, sir?

Mabhunhu: You said you are from Horizon, the paper that reported negatively about Mr Boka.

RC: I don’t think so, Mr Mabhunhu. Horizon is a bold and factual magazine. I want to speak to Mr Boka, please.

Mabhunhu: Mr Boka doesn’t speak to white-owned papers. Who owns your paper?

RC: It’s staff owned. Are you Mr Boka? (Silence)

Mabhunhu: An MP here tells me that Horizon is owned by Andrew Moyse. You are just a poor worker there! You are the people Mr Boka will never listen to. You want to play to the tune of 75 000 whites who stole our wealth. Why do you want to work for whites?

RC: I don’t work for whites, I work with whites, sir. I believe in the concept of reconciliation.

Mabhunhu: What is this animal called reconciliation? Then you are not the right person to talk to Mr Boka. I will tell him that a reporter from Horizon … oh you are the people we are fighting to eliminate in our society. I am an ex-combatant, Choto, we didn’t go to war to maintain white supremacy. Anyway, leave Mr Boka alone. He won’t talk to you. Go and talk to Sithole or Mugabe, Boka is not a public figure.

RC: We think he is a public figure. He is a wealthy person, the first black to enter the tobacco-auction business, he is controversial too.

Mabhunhu: Let me tell you that the public is waiting for its day… people like you and whites will be crushed. We can put cyanide in your tea and die. Do you think we are happy with what is happening? You will see fire.

There is no reconciliation my friend. If you think that blacks and whites will reconcile, then you are fooling yourself.

Why don’t you do like Chikerema at the Sunday Mail or Tommy Sithole at the Herald? They know what we mean by black empowerment. That is why we advertise in these papers, not in the Independent where that Iden writes stories that denounce blacks. You think we are happy … wait, you will be crushed to death one day. You will see it happening in the streets.

RC: But there are some papers that speak for the voiceless, but you don’t support them.

Mabhunu: We support black-owned papers … we have set aside $17-million for advertising. Only, we have the money for our right people.

RC: I am sorry sir, I am not an advertiser but a journalist … I hope you will put me through to Mr Boka. He is the man I want to talk to.

Mabhunhu: He’s not here but I will tell him that you phoned. I have to rush to the tobacco floors. But remember, Choto, that we will eliminate all of you.

Boka doesn’t like to speak to people who support reconciliation. If your child finishes school he won’t get employment. But the white man’s child has no problem and you talk about reconciliation. Mr Boka wants to talk to people with the right mind.

RC: But why are you denying me access to Mr Boka?

Mabhunhu: Not to proponents of reconciliation! Okay, Choto, you will see the day when whites and people like you will be crushed.

RC: We will report about that.

Mabhunhu: It’s a pity that only the future generation will realise the importance of Mr Boka’s stance. But they will have to go to archives to get the information.

RC: But if Mr Boka doesn’t want to be written about, how will the archives have data on his life if we are denied access to his business activities?

Mabhunhu: He has his supporters … they will write about his struggles, not white-owned papers.

RC: But there are whites who are pro-blacks.

Mabhunhu: Never!

RC: You don’t want to believe in them.

Mabhunhu: I will never! Let me go to the floors, that’s where I work.

RC: Please tell Mr Boka that Horizon wants to talk to him.

Mabhunhu: I will tell him everything about Horizon, bye.

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