Mandiwanzira tackles corruption claims

INFORMATION Communications Tec-hnology minister Supa Mandiwanzira (pictured) has of late been facing corruption accusations from his critics ranging from that he was involved in dodgy deals with Megawatt Energy, the company hired to investigate overpricing of equipment to NetOne by Chinese company Huawei, to settling factional scores using his ministry. Business reporter Kudzai Kuwaza (KK) this week spoke to Mandiwanzira (SM) on these issues. Find excerpts below:

INFORMATION Communications Technology (ICT) minister Supa Mandiwanzira
INFORMATION Communications Technology (ICT) minister Supa Mandiwanzira

KK : Why and how did you settle for Megawatt Energy to investigate the overpricing of equipment to NetOne by Chinese Technology Company Huawei?

SM: The ministry settled on Megawatt because it is the only company that was willing to offer its services pro-bono (for free) and pro-bono publico (for the public good).It was only going to be paid a commission from what they would have recovered. So clearly the government had no cost whatsoever. They also exhibited knowledge of the ICT and the telecomms sector in Zimbabwe; that was a plus. It’s important for you to know that Megawatt is not a fly-by-night company. They are involved in big money projects, including the construction of a 175-megawatt solar energy plant in Matabeleland South for around US$350 million.

KK: NetOne CEO Reward Kangai accused you of suspending him because he refused to pay Megawatt US$4 million. He also said you are building a structure in Midrand, South Africa, through your South African-based company, Blue Nightingale Trading which you own jointly with Megawatt CE Xiaodong Li. What is your response?

SM: First of all, let’s understand that Mr Reward Kangai is a disgruntled employee who has been sent home on forced leave to pave way for a forensic audit of NetOne. The forensic audit is being done by PWC on assignment from Auditor General (Mildred Chiri). It was Mrs Chiri’s recommendation to the NetOne board that they send Mr Kangai and other top managers on forced leave in order to avoid the possibility of them destroying evidence. Clearly, it is the board’s role to take action on their management and not the minister.

Mr Kangai or NetOne have no obligation to pay Megawatt. In fact, Megawatt is paying itself from whatever it recovers. I am very happy to say that because of the ministry’s intervention — that of letting them carry out this audit — NetOne has recovered US$30 million. That’s a phenomenal figure if you consider that the ministry of ICT’s annual budget disbursement from Treasury has not exceeded $3 million of the last two years.

The allegation that I have a business partnership with Megawatt and or their owners is a lie; a complete fabrication and one that will sure have legal consequences on Mr Kangai … I have no, business with that company or its owners, whether in Zimbabwe, South Africa, China or anywhere in the world including in space. Regarding a property, that’s even crazier. I don’t own any property in South Africa. If anyone finds such a property they must take it over.

I was a director of a South African shelf company called Blue Nightingale in my previous life as an active businessman. This company was established by directors of Rainbow Cinemas in Zimbabwe as a conduit for US films which could not be shipped to Zimbabwe directly because of sanctions. It’s now history that I donated 100% of Rainbow Cinemas (shares) to employees as an empowerment initiative in 2012. That is the last I ever heard of it, dealt with it or had anything to do with Blue Nightingale.

KK: How much did the vehicles purchased for you and your deputy minister Win Mlambo using Potraz funds cost?
SM: The vehicles were bought by CMED and are owned by CMED. I am sure you are aware that CMED is a 100% government-owned company. You can check the pricing with them, but what I know for certain is that they could not have been bought for any amount above that is stipulated and set by the Office of the President and Cabinet. I have read somewhere that I am driving around in a US$200 000 car. I am not that irresponsible, please. I don’t drive a US$200 000 car. By the way, I have already stated that all procedures were followed and all authorisations were granted for these CMED purchases which were made because I was using my own personal cars to do government business.

KK: Businessman Agrippa Masiyakurima, commonly referred to as Bopela, has accused you of targeting him because he has been bankrolling the First Lady Grace Mugabe’s rallies. He also accused you of failing to service your BancABC loan. How do you respond to this?

SM: That is an abuse of the First Lady’s name and the great work she is doing for the Women’s League. Those whose companies are under the spotlight for the forensic audit must not drag her name and her good work in order to hide their shady transactions with NetOne. He must wait for the results of the forensic audit being done by the Auditor General through PWC.

I am fully aware that Mr Masiyakurima has been all over trying desperately, and with spectacular failure, to soil my integrity. From trying to misrepresent a US$200 000 debt he owed my former employers as a bribe to splashing money to party youths in Manicaland so they could pass a vote-of-no-confidence in me. He even offered cars to some of them — but it all came to nought. Now he is going around lying that minister Mandiwanzira funded this factional meeting and that factional meeting. It is all going to fail too because it’s false. When the evidence of his US$200 000 indebtedness was brought out in public to pour water on his stupid claims — he rushed to pay back the debt in full plus interest. All documentary proof of these payments is available.

As for the BancABC loan, I think the bank has a responsibility to protect its clients’ information; in terms of bank-client confidentiality. That they allow Masiyakurima’s wife, who I understand works for BancABC, to take private client information and give it to her husband to abuse it to settle personal scores is very worrying. I hope the bank will be doing something about it soon.

KK: When can we expect the audit of NetOne to be completed?

SM: I have stayed far away from the process to ensure that it’s independent of perceived or real influence by the ministry or the minister. I have been told by NetOne board that it will be completed this month.