Member of Parliament and businessman, Kenneth Musanhi, became the talk of town last week when news broke that he had splashed nearly US$1 million on a plane.
|Questions were asked as to where he got the money from and what he intends to use the plane for. But to the Bindura North legislator, the hype is much ado about nothing as he says he alrady owns 11 other aircraft.|
“In fact at one point I owned 24 of them so I’m surprised that people have taken interest in this one alone,” said Musanhi in an up-close and personal interaction last Friday.
And while driving to Charles Prince Airport where the aircraft are kept, the 58-year-old tried to answer as many questions about the planes as possible.
“They are for business,” he said, his voice floating over gospel music playing softly in the background. “And I did not buy them in my personal capacity. One of my companies which deals in aviation services, Central Air Transport Service, is the one which bought the plane at an auction.
“The planes are used for business from transport, tourism and cloud seeding while the company also does repairs of other planes in the country.
“I rarely have them for personal use unless there is an urgent business meeting, let’s say in Tanzania, because I own a huge business network in Southern Africa and sometimes I have to rush around.”
Musanhi says he bought his first plane in 1990 before buying CATS in 2004, then known as United Air Charter and owning about 24 aircraft.
He also claims that CATS, through its subsidiary Aerotech, is the only company which offers plane repairs in the country and has the best equipped workshop in the region.
Asked how he accumulated so much wealth, the MP said he worked hard from humble beginnings.
He owns companies AVM Africa, Afgri Zimbabwe and CATS, as well as having shares in companies like National Foods and Innscor Zimbabwe as part of his KSM empire.
“I started during the war when I was about 18-years-old,” he said. “It was in 1978 I think, when soon after leaving school I started buying cowpeas from rural peasant farmers and selling them to National Foods.
“I had failed to finish school and my father wanted me to be a bus conductor but I refused and he was so upset he chased me away. So I decided to go (to) Bindura to collaborate in the (liberation) war.”
Musanhi said his mother was distraught.
“My mother cried about it, arguing that she could not allow me to go to war because my two brothers had already left for war. I told her that my intention was not to go to war but to help from home. I asked her if she had any money to help me to start a business.
“She didn’t have any money but she gave me two of her cattle to sell. I sold the two cattle and used the money to grow sunflowers.” Musanhi said Lever Brothers (now Unilver) was offering sunflower seed for free which gave him space to use the money he earned from selling the cattle to buy fertiliser and pay for labour. He said the rains were good that year and he had a bumper yield in 1979.
“When I took the sunflowers to Lever Brothers they were so good, it was unbelievable,” he said. “After selling them I got about Z$2 500 which was a lot of money at that time. When I got the money I quickly decided to buy back the cattle for my mother. I bought four heifers-in-calving for about Z$300.
“I then used the remainder of the money to start my cowpeas business. There weres a lot of cowpeas lying around because war had started and no one knew what to do with them. They could not transport (to markets) because there were landmines everywhere.
“I saw an opportunity and offered to buy the cowpeas from farmers for about Z$6 a bag. After that I went to Farmers’ Co-op and they were buying a bag at Z$75; but one of my relatives told me that Farmers’ Co-op was actually buying the peas for National Foods and that it was paying Z$150 a bag.”
Musanhi said after learning about the National Foods price, he increased his offer to the farmers from Z$6 a bag to Z$24.
He took advantage of his good ties with freedom fighters to transport produce without harm.
“So then I met a businessman who was into transport and he gave me four of his trucks to transport the cowpeas. I transported loads of the cowpeas to National Foods and that is the year I became a millionaire. From then I never looked back.”
The legislator says from buying and selling cowpeas, his next business venture was running taxis – one of which he personally drove.
After taxis, he went into trucking.
“So I started a trucking company and I bought my first trucks from a white guy called Steve Everrete. I bought 10 trucks and trailers at once. At that time the guy had a contract to transport maize from here to Malawi and I took advantage of that contract.
“I ran the contract more efficiently with 10 trucks than he did with 30 trucks and everyone was surprised. What I did is that in each of the 10 trucks I had two drivers so that when one got tired the other would take over without stopping the truck.
“I was also driving. The contract kept on being renewed in my name and I continued to buy new trucks until I got big.
“From the trucks I started looking at other sectors and I bought some shares in National Foods. I also bought some shares in AVM. I started as a minority and I continued buying until I was the majority shareholder. And just about that time I secured the whole shareholding of United Refineries Limited in Bulawayo.”
Musanhi didn’t stop there.
“I also bought some shares at Bottom Amateur Winding (BAW), I bought some shares in the then SABATA Holdings which is now Afgri, the sole importer of John Deere equipment, and then I bought CATS.
“So this is my history. I am no longer a small person – I am into a lot of businesses, I employ almost a thousand people and at some point there were over 3 000. So what people are saying, that I stole money, is coming from people who do not know me.”
Musanhi stays in Shashe suburb of Bindura and is married with eight children. He says he is a God-fearing man who goes to United Methodist Church.-Sundaymail