AFRICAPACITI CEO Tafadzwa Muguti says equity level participation in indigenisation and empowerment deals is not the answer to addressing wealth imbalances in the country. He says government must ensure Zimbabweans are involved at the supply chain level. Muguti appeared on Zimbabwe’s corporate radar last week with a sensational lawsuit challenging tender processes and procedures of the US$290 million NetOne tender awarded to Huawei Technologies. Zimbabwe Independent business editor Chris Muronzi (CM) interview Muguti this week. See excerpts below:
CM: Last week you dragged the State Procurement Board to the Administrative Court over how the government procurement agency awarded a tender to Huawei Technologies without following laid out procedures. Why did you sue?
TM: I think first and foremost it is important to note that the legal case is not against any particular individual. I have not in any way accused any person, but simply followed the normal procurement enquiry procedures one would have followed should they be unsatisfied with any particular process or result with a public enterprise. It is my civil right as a Zimbabwean to approach the authorities should I require an explanation on any matter.
Fortunately, the law stipulates that such issues should be addressed in the administrative court as this is not a criminal issue. For years, Zimbabweans have become used to corridor and pillow talks, where they wonder why there is so much corruption and why certain people get away with violating the law. I chose to approach the courts and seek redress.
CM: Who is Tafadzwa Muguti?
TM: Simply put, I am a young entrepreneur who has worked hard to get to where I am. I have walked a straight path all my life and learned along the way to be bold and stand by what I believe in. I started my first business at 21 and have to date received two international awards and an award from the government of Zimbabwe for Continental Excellence in ICT (2010).
I am married to Tsungai, daughter of the late Minister of Defence Moven Mahachi and have three lovely children.
CM: What is your view on indigenisation and empowerment?
TM: Indigenisation and empowerment starts with the belief that as Zimbabweans we have a civil and moral right to be supported by our government. While we are all not guaranteed of specific benefits, we have the right to be considered first before foreigners. This is the case worldwide.
Indigenisation and empowerment does not start at equity participation, but at the supply chain. We need to embrace the fact that if we buy from Zimbabweans in both the private and public sector we have empowered ourselves. That is why the law is very specific about public enterprises buying from local companies.
Unfortunately, we are in a world where even foreigners can register companies and be considered local companies too. This is where the government needs to protect Zimbabweans and our industries.
These international companies should be encouraged to work with local people and transfer skills and technology in the process.
CM: There is talk you are a front for a US-based company and have no capacity to supply such a tender. What do you say to that?
TM: I take this as an insult to my intelligence and to all Zimbabweans. Just because you espouse a different view from others does not make you an imperialist or a sell-out. Let’s stop politicking when we have a problem.
Our bad relations with Europe and the West don’t cause corruption, people do. How can you know my capacity as a Zimbabwean businessman (able to go) to tender if I am not given a fair chance to do so. It doesn’t necessarily have to be me, but there are many people who would also have submitted their bids.
Are we then saying there is no company that has the capacity to build base stations and implement telecoms infrastructure in the entire country? After the publication of the tender case I have been called names by some very senior people for taking NetOne to court. I am not fronting for any American. I am, however, fronting for the people of Zimbabwe. It should be normal for anyone to ask how a company got a tender and if laws were broken, then it is also normal for a citizen to approach the Anti-Corruption Commission.
CM: What is your ultimate goal in this case?
TM: I have simply taken a cue from President (Robert Mugabe)’s speech against corruption in parliament? Our president simply wanted to let the country know corrupt practices will not be tolerated in Zimbabwe any longer. He is my greatest inspiration among other great leaders like my late father-in-law who stood and still stands for the protection of the weak.
We must report any nonsense in public offices, speak out against those not pulling in one direction and, most of all, support the president.
Companies like Huawei and many others should follow Zimbabwean laws when they come to do business. They should make profit as investors in our country but not at the detriment and expense of Zimbabweans. If they don’t, we will challenge them as Zimbabweans here and in their respective countries. If corruption is not tolerated in their own countries, why should it be tolerated here. I and many other Zimbabweans want to see true empowerment and it starts with our mentality and trust in each other’s capacity and capability.
My ultimate goal by taking the State Procurement Board and NetOne to court is to prove that any Zimbabwean has the right to ask why?
CM: What does Africapaciti do?
TM: I have since retired as an active engineer and now run an investment promotion and strategic development company in South Africa. I started this business after realising that many governments in Africa struggle to get foreign investments because of lack of capacity to conceptualise and make projects feasible and bankable. My company is one of the few companies on the continent that invests in government projects from conceptualisation to bankability. We also have a business institute for capacity development.