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Press Review of Monday, 3 June 2002

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"We want our brewery back" - Tata Brewery owner’s son

Accra (Public Agenda ) - The eldest son of the late J.K. Siaw, whose Tata Brewery and other properties were seized by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) regime led by former junta head Jerry Rawlings, says it is not enough for the state to merely return the property. The state must return them and also compensate the family for the loss of the said property, he insists.

The son, Joseph Apeadu Siaw, in an interview with Public Agenda pointed out that principles of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Committee do not apply to those who lost their livelihood. This is precisely because it is unacceptable for the offender to apologise and the property are returned to the family in disrepair, he said questioning “what about the children? If you kill someone’s daddy and take his property and, at the time of reconciliation, you just give the property back in a state of disrepair, you have in fact given the person a headache.”

Tata Brewery has since its confiscation been divested to Kumasi Brewery Limited (KBL), the former’s chief competitor at the time of its seizure. Now Apeadu Sia is accusing KBL and its operators, Heinekens, of deliberately running down his father’s sweat, Tata Brewery, now Achimota Brewery. According to him, the Siaw family has the original inventory of the brewery before the AFRC military junta took over, and a check at the brewery recently showed that some of the high quality equipment had disappeared and replaced by inferior ones.

A trained brewer, Apeadu Siaw mentioned the replaced of 52 polo fermenting tanks and Souzer compressors. Apeadu Siaw estimated that if it had not been confiscated, Tata’s total revenue could by now account for at least 20 per cent of Ghana’s present total revenue. He confirmed that he was recently invited to a government Asset Restoration Commission adding that he is presently assembling some vital documents to ask the government to restore the brewery and all his father’s property confiscated back to the Siaw family. Though he believes the Kufuor administration has good intentions to bring the issue to rest, he warned that if the government does not handle the problem properly, to the satisfaction of the victims, then the President might as well stop globe-trotting to woo investors because it won’t click.

“It is only the crooks and those failing in their home countries who will jump at the opportunity to come here,” Apeadu Siaw charged. He told Agenda that he wasn’t surprised that numerous efforts by the former government to lure investors to the country did not succeed because he is inundated by calls from potential foreign investors who want to know about the fate of his father’s business first.

To him, the family’s continual deprivation of the property is a drawback to President Kufuor’s efforts to invite investors to the country and to give meaning to his “Golden age of Business” concept.

The late J.K. Siaw was one of five Ghanaian real businessmen who lost their property in 1979. The others are B.K. Yeboah, who died during the period, B.A. Mensah who lost his tobacco manufacturing firm, E.O. Boakye and E.K. Owusu of KOWUS Motors.

Disappointed by the loss of his father’s entire life enterprise in what he describes as ‘petty jealousy and one government’s infatuation with foreign transnational companies,” Apeadu Siaw, a returnee from exile, says he is shy of dealing with politicians. He recollects vividly, in pain mixed with anger, how his father was dispossessed in 1979 of his entire life investment – Tata Brewery, a number of housing units and flats in Accra, the present Goil House, Angelina House and parcels of land in Accra, Eastern and Ashanti Regions because the AFRC regime claimed his father was assisted by the late Head of State, General I.K. Acheampong’s regime.

Apeadu denies that his father owed his success to the Acheampong regime, saying “when we were building Tata Brewery, Acheampong was not the Head of State.” His father, Apeadu said, built the brewery with them – the children carried head pans of concrete during school holidays while their mothers brought them food at the work site.

“It is our sweat and blood,” he said. The late Siaw was also accused of evading tax. However, Apeadu Siaw said that the misconceptions about his father’s success, fuelled by his UAC competitor, could have been due to the late Head of State commissioning Tata Brewery after he had found out that Siaw’s dream to bring jobs to Ghanaians was being sabotaged by the multinational company. He said his father bled to death without drinking a pint of beer from Tata Brewery. After long running battle with the former National Democratic Congress government whose predecessor seized the property, some of the property have been handed back to the family through the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice.

Angelina House, which comprises a number of stores situated at the Central Business District of Accra and a number of houses are among those returned. Though returned, one flat at Kpehe, a suburb of Accra is still being occupied by military personnel. A man who has sworn that it was a gift from the former President also occupies another one at Abofun, another suburb of Accra