Zimbabwean businessman Simon Rudland, co-owner of Gold Leaf Tobacco Corporation and co-founder of Pioneer Transport, was seriously injured in an apparent assassination attempt in Johannesburg on Wednesday morning, South Africa’s News24 reports.
Sinenhlanhla Mnguni, head of the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), confirmed the shooting on Thursday.
Two assailants in a white car are said to have waited at the offices of FITA in Norwood, Johannesburg. As Rudland and his lawyer arrived for a meeting, one man fired nine shots with a handgun to Rudland’s head area. One bullet struck him in the neck. He has since been hospitalised and is being kept in intensive care.
“It comes as a shock to all of us,” Mnguni said. “At this stage police are investigating. This is something we take seriously.”
Mnguni said Rudland has not yet been able to communicate as to what exactly happened. He said he would speak to Rudland during the course of Thursday morning. “We have to allow Mr Rudland to recover.”
Mnguni said he was not aware of any threats that Rudland may have received prior to the incident. “Our priority now is to ensure that Mr Rudland is safe.”
Last year, City Press reported that about 26.8% of all cigarettes sold in South Africa were “illicit” and that this trade was dominated by one local company: Gold Leaf Tobacco.
Its directors are Johannesburg-based Ebrahim Ahmed Adamjee and Rudland.
Together with his brother Hamish, Simon formed Pioneer Transport in 1995, before growing their business into Pioneer Corporation Africa through the acquisitions of other leading transport businesses, including Unifreight – owners of Swift transport – Bulwark, and Clan Transport. In 2015, however, Unifreight sold the troubled Pioneer Transport unit to staff.
In 2015, Simon Rudland launched the Rudland & George cigarette brand, but his brand R&G was successfully challenged by competitors Remington Gold in court for copyright infringement.
The Rudlands have, over the past years, been active investors on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, holding significant stakes in assets such as Zimre and CFI, where they had a long battle for control with maverick investor Nicholas van Hoogstraten.