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Affirmative Action Leader Boka Dies

February 24, 1999 GMT

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Roger Boka, a leading African black empowerment advocate whose bank collapsed last year amid questionable practices, is dead at age 54.

Boka died aboard a private jet Sunday as it approached Harare’s airport, his family said. His daughter, Rudo, said Boka was returning from the United States where he sought treatment. She would not specify the illness.

Zimbabwean newspapers reported he suffered from ailments often linked to AIDS, including Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Boka was wanted for questioning over the alleged illegal transfer abroad of $25 million from his collapsed United Merchant Bank. Police said last month that their investigations into the operations of Boka’s bank were hampered by his poor health.

President Robert Mugabe praised Boka as ``a man of action, a fearless voice and doughty fighter for black empowerment.″

Over the past decade he ``systematically broke into sectors hitherto dominated by multinationals and white commercial outfits,″ Mugabe said.

Boka’s bank offered loans to blacks at favorable terms and accused multinational banks of discriminating against black entrepreneurs who lacked collateral.

He also headed a group of retail and tobacco marketing companies that were at forefront of a campaign for black advancement in business.

Boka’s bank collapsed after it allegedly sold faked bonds, purportedly to raise capital for a state-owned slaughter and meat processing firm.