John Bredenkamp

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John Bredenkamp
John Bredenkamp.jpg
BornJohn Arnold Bredenkamp
(1940-08-11) August 11, 1940 (age 83)
Kimberley, South Africa
DiedJune 18, 2020(2020-06-18) (aged 79)
NationalityZimbabwean, South African and Dutch
EducationPrince Edward School

John Arnold Bredenkamp (born 11 August 1940) was a Zimbabwean businessman and former rugby union footballer. He is the founder of the Casalee Group.


Born in Kimberley, South Africa, Bredenkamp moved with his family to Southern Rhodesia while he was still a child. He was orphaned in his mid-teens on his birthday when while he was riding his bike, on return he found his father had shot his mother and sister and then shot himself. His sister survived the shooting. He was educated in Southern Rhodesia at Prince Edward School, Salisbury (now Harare). Of Dutch ancestry, Bredenkamp registered as a Rhodesian citizen in 1958. He is reported to have lost Zimbabwean citizenship "by default" in 1984, but this was restored to him shortly thereafter.

He got married in 1962 to Jennifer Lee Scott (born Krugersdorp, South Africa, 18 June 1942), reportedly a former Miss South Africa and daughter of Kenneth William Scott.

Bredenkamp was reported to hold Zimbabwean, South African and Dutch passports. The matter of his nationality was a matter of dispute with some Zimbabwean officials towards the end of 2006.

As a Rugby Union international, he captained Rhodesia from 1965 to 1968.


After his graduation, Bredenkamp joined Gallaher Limited, an international tobacco company in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), as a leaf buyer. In 1968 he was transferred to Niemeyer in the Netherlands, where he rose to the position of leaf director.

After leaving Gallaher in 1976 Bredenkamp founded the Casalee Group of companies registered in Antwerp, Belgium. It is believed that the Casalee operation was involved in the sale of Rhodesian tobacco on world markets, through evasion of UN sanctions. Casalee was primarily a leaf tobacco merchanting company but was also engaged in general trading and an active initiator of counter trade and barter deals. The Casalee Group grew over 16 years to become the fifth largest tobacco merchant in the world and the biggest non-US leaf tobacco company. The Group employed 2,500 people and had offices in all the major tobacco growing countries in the world including the USA (Winston-Salem), Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Greece, India, Indonesia, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and Yugoslavia. The company owned tobacco-processing factories in the Netherlands, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Brazil.

The Casalee Group of companies was sold in 1993 to Universal Leaf Tobacco, the largest leaf tobacco company in the world. Since then, Bredenkamp has expanded his business interests into many other different areas, mainly through the Zimbabwe registered Breco company.

John Bredenkamp is mentioned on p29 Cartel Power Dynamics in Zimbabwe under the Case Study 4 The Cigarette Cartels.

Role in Zimbabwe

Bredenkamp's career took off in earnest during the late 1970s when he became deeply involved in the commercial affairs of the embargoed UDI regime in Rhodesia. It has been claimed that he effectively ran the finances of the Rhodesian armed forces during the later stages of the Bush War. In this capacity, he brokered export sales of Rhodesian products (mainly tobacco) and used the proceeds to fund the purchase of munitions and military equipment. His "sanctions busting" deals (often involving complex barter transactions) sustained the UDI regime for far longer than would otherwise have been possible. These deals were entirely legal under Rhodesian law.

After independence in 1980, Bredenkamp left Zimbabwe and moved his base of operations to Belgium. However, he remained involved in commodity trading and defence procurement. He made himself useful in certain quarters. In 1984 he made his peace with the rulers of the new Zimbabwe and was able to return home. Zimbabwe provided a hospitable base for Bredenkamp's dealings with customers in Africa and the Middle East. These dealings made Bredenkamp and his associates very wealthy men. They also helped sustain the Zimbabwean economy in a time of some turbulence.

Bredenkamp gained considerable clout in the political and economic affairs of Zimbabwe. It is known that he played a significant role in the events surrounding Zimbabwe's intervention in the DRC between 1998 and 2003. This intervention involved using the Zimbabwean army and air force to support the Kabila government in its war with rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda. There appears to have been some linkage between the intervention and generous mining concessions granted by the DRC to figures in the Zimbabwe political and business elite. When Zimbabwe was subject to EU sanctions from 1999 onwards, the Robert Mugabe regime was able to call on sanctions busting expertise from the UDI era to keep its armed forces supplied. Part of the “elite network” that was involved in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DR Congo, through his participation in / control of the Kababankola Mining Company (KMC) in co-operation with the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (late Gen. Vitalis Zvinavashe, OSLEG company) and Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was the then Speaker of Parliament in Zimbabwe, and apparent heir to Mugabe.

Bredenkamp became something of a power behind the scenes in the ruling ZANU-PF party. It is claimed that he sought to facilitate the early retirement of the late former President Robert Mugabe in 2004 and his replacement by Emmerson Mnangagwa, former Security Minister and Speaker of Parliament. This displeased rival factions in ZANU-PF, and government investigations were started into the affairs of Bredenkamp's Breco trading company concerning tax evasion and exchange control violations. The matters under investigation were transactions between Breco in Zimbabwe and offshore companies controlled by Bredenkamp.

Bredenkamp has been linked to claims to facilitate the retirement of Mugabe in 2000, by the Guardian's investigation into the leaked US embassy cables.

In September 2006 Bredenkamp was tried in Zimbabwe on charges that he used a South African passport on international journeys. Zimbabwean citizenship law does not permit dual nationality. Although acquitted, he had to fight a second court case to obtain an order to return his Zimbabwe passport which the clerk of the court had retained. He was ordered to produce documentary evidence of his renunciation of South African citizenship to have his nationality restored permanently. But his passport was returned.

In April 2016, The Guardian reported that Bredenkamp has an "estimated £700m fortune from tobacco trading, grey-market arms dealing, sports marketing and diamond mining."

Bredenkamp is the subject of US sanctions aimed at people of significant influence within the Zimbabwean government.

Legal Battle

In 2017 his private jet faced auctioning over a $205 000 debt after the High Court of Zimbabwe threw out his bid to block the removal of the attached plane. Bredenkamp had borrowed $3,8 million from a friend, Mr Yakub Mahomed, for the purposes of recapitalising his mining business in the Democratic Republic of Congo but failed to pay the debt in full.[1]

The judgment awarded Mr Mahomed $3,8 million plus interest but the debt was reduced to $205 602 after taxation. Advocates Thabani Mpofu and Tawanda Zhuwarara, instructed by Mr Jonathan Samukange of Venturas and Samukange Legal Practitioners, represented Mr Mahomed in the matter while Advocate David Ochieng and Mr Tawanda Nyamasoka acted for Mr Bredenkamp. Mr Mahomed, through his team of lawyers, instructed the Sheriff of the High Court to attach a private jet belonging to Mr Bredenkamp. On 31 May 2017, the Sheriff attached the plane and removal was set for 5 June 2017.


He died on 18 June 2020 in Harare, Zimbabwe due to kidney failure.[2]


  1. Daniel Nemukuyu, [1], The Herald, Published: 23 June, 2017, Accessed: 18 June, 2020
  2. Liam Brickhill, [2], Twitter, Published: 18 June, 2020, Accessed: 18 June, 2020

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