PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and his family have become a refuge for controversial characters and dodgy dealers trying to hide their criminal activities and get protection by associating themselves with the First Family.
By Wongai Zhangazha
A number of shady businesspersons have sought sanctuary under the First Family by giving the public an impression that they are either close or related to the Mugabes. Some businesspersons have also tried to legitimise themselves by donating towards the family and party functions where Mugabe is idolised.
This opportunism or abuse of Mugabe’s family name has been brought sharply into focus by under fire ex-convict-turned-businessman Wicknell Chivayo who last week posted pictures and a video of himself with First Lady Grace Mugabe and her son Robert Junior while having dinner in Dubai.
Chivayo posted: “Had dinner in Dubai yesterday with my mother and my little brother (Robert Jnr). I love my parents. Team Bob for life, Mungandi dii? Hapana kana zvamunondiita (What can you do to me? There is nothing that anyone can do to me).
The post came after Chivayo lashed out at Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, who had joined many Zimbabweans in suggesting that the Zimbabwe Football Association needs corporate sponsorship rather than an individual benefactors. This was after the businessman withdrew sponsorship to the national team after the state-controlled weekly Sunday Mail reported he had gone two months without paying national soccer team coach Kalisto Pasuwa.
In his vitriol against the minister, he told Moyo he was a “Zanu PF hard core” supporter and part of “Team Bob for Life”.
In 2014, he posted pictures with Mugabe at State House alongside a comment which read: “Long live my hero, my role model, the most valuable gift from God to the people of Zimbabwe, the man of principles, a sincere and loving father, incorruptible revolutionary.
“I had a wonderful meeting with the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces yesterday. For him and only him I had to wear a suit, for any other president I’ll wear shorts instead. ZimAsset was the main topic of the conversation.”
Chivayo is a former convict. His company, Intratrek Zimbabwe (Private) Ltd was, however, controversially awarded tenders for solar projects by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority despite his conviction for fraud and dodgy record.
The Zesa board has since demanded a probe to ascertain how Chivayo was awarded the tender.
According to sources, Chivayo, is close to Mugabe’s son Robert Jnr. He has reportedly used the friendship to access the Mugabes.
Businessman Agrippa Masiyakurima, commonly referred to as Bopela, has also been flaunting his association with the Mugabes.
Masiyakurima’s company Bopela Group of Companies has been implicated in the NetOne corruption scandal, which has resulted in the parastatal losing millions of dollars.
Last year, he donated 91 cattle and US$91 000 towards Mugabe’s 91st birthday celebrations.
Masiyakurima was also one of the funders of Grace’s meet-the-people rallies which she has used to cast aspersions at a Zanu PF faction led by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
He recently attacked ICT minister Supa Mandiwanzira for causing his problems because he believed he was funding Grace and G40.
Grace has also been dragged into the scandals at Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) after one of the fired top executives Henry Mandishona allegedly claimed he was related to her and had her support.
Mandishona was fired for gross incompetence and abuse of office and insubordination, although he has denied and dismissed the claims. However, not so many have been lucky in using Mugabe and Grace’s names in shoddy dealings.
Despite being one of the major contributors to Mugabe’s birthday bashes over the years, while Psmas contributors were being turned away from various medical institutions countrywide because of debts, former Psmas CEO Cuthbert Dube was sacked.
Dube sparked criticism after revelations he was receiving close to US$500 000 as part of his exextortionate monthly salary and allowances, although the organisation owed service providers US$38 million.
Dube is also understood to have covered the president’s sister, Bridget Mugabe’s medical expenses. Bridget died at Parirenyatwa Hospital in 2014 after collapsing at the National Heroes Acre in 2010.
Controversial local tycoon Phillip Chiyangwa, who for years claimed to be related to Mugabe, was exposed by Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao last year for lying over the issue as he has also used the Mugabe name to advance his interests.
Before that his claims to be related to Mugabe did not save him from being arrested in 2004 over espionage charges on which was not convicted. Mugabe did not come to his rescue.
Zhuwao tried to use Mugabe’s name to grab Telecel, but he failed. While he lives a comfortable life, he is generally not known as a successful businessman except for being the owner of the rundown bar in Greendale.
Mugabe’s nephew Leo has not succeeded in business despite carrying the name Mugabe.
Last year, Leo was taken to court for allegedly trying to take over a multi-million dollar gasification project in Hwange through underhand deals.
Even Mugabe, before he married Grace, did not appear to have much except for a house in Mount Pleasant and one farm in Norton.
However, the arrival of Grace introduced a lot of glitz and glamour to Mugabe’s pedestrian life, including building a mansion in Borrowdale Brook popularly known as “the Blue Roof”.
The family owns more than 10 farms through Gushungo Holdings and other networks.