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Chinese firm pockets huge govt contracts

BRIAN CHITEMBA/TINASHE MAKICHI
A PROMINENT Chinese company Satewave Technologies was awarded several multi-million dollar contracts by the government amid revelations that the Treasury recently made payments of more than US$6 million to the firm for the census project and Health and Child Care ministry equipment.

Zimbabwe’s fifth census will run from April 21-30, 2022, where 40 500 enumerators have been recruited.

The foreign currency payment to Satewave lifts a lid on how a single Chinese company is handling several contracts in government departments and ministries, such as, Health and Child Care ministry, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara), Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) and the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).

Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa)

In recent months, Satewave has also made donations of medical equipment worth over US$1,5 million to its client — the government.

The apex bank governor, John Mangudya initially made the request to the Finance and Economic Development ministry in October 2021 for Satewave Technologies to get foreign currency directly from the government for the services it was providing to the state.

(RBZ) governor John Mangudya

Yesterday, Mangudya confirmed the transaction, which he said was eventually paid to the contractor by the government.

“Indeed, we approached the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, in good faith, with a request for them to use part of their forex resources to fund government projects that included the procurement of computers by Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) for the census programme in view of the size of the amounts that were required under the projects and the timeframe under which the funds were required against the forex auction system rules,” the RBZ chief told the Zimbabwe Independent.

“We also took account of the fact that it was in the public interest to ensure that government projects do not crowd out the private sector on the forex auction system, more so at the time the Bank is working flat out to clear the auction backlog.”

However, a confidential letter penned by Mangudya on October 26, 2021 in Zimbabwe Independent’s possession addressed to Finance and Economic Development ministry permanent secretary George Guvamatanga asked for a release of US$6 million to Satewave Technologies. Of the US$6 million, about US$2,5 million was supposed to be release immediately.

Treasury has since paid off the money through its bankers.

The letter titled, ‘Request for foreign currency support for government projects being carried out by Satewave Technologies’, was copied to Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda and Satewave Technologies managing director Feng Xiaofeng.

Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube

Mangudya wrote that Satewave had asked the RBZ on October 10, 2021 for foreign currency to implement various government projects.

Commenting on the letter, Mangudya said: “The bank does not participate in the awarding of government tenders and we are not very sure why an official letter of request would find its way to the press and for what purpose.”

Satewave, according to documents, has tenders in the Health and Child Care ministry, Zinwa, Zinara, ZPC and GMB.

The Chinese company supplies computers and solar systems to government departments and ministries.

In recent years, hundreds of Chinese companies have dominated the agriculture sector, mining, manufacturing, energy and infrastructure works in Zimbabwe.

Chinese companies are implementing projects worth millions of United States dollars with profits repatriated back to the Asian giant.

Mangudya wrote that: “Please kindly be advised that while the bank has no challenge with Satewave participating on the auction system for their foreign currency requirements, the urgency with which the implementation of the projects is expected coupled with the amount involved calls for your support.

“A total of about US$6 million is required. Immediately, a total of US$2,5 million is urgently required to meet deposit for the ministry of Health and Child Care equipment, which they advised was overdue.

“In light of the above, we seek our consideration in availing the required foreign exchange resources to Satewave for them to start the implementation of the government projects”.

Guvamatanga did not respond to questions by the time of going to print.

But Treasury sources said the request for foreign currency was being done by several companies, including Satewave but the Finance ministry has been directing the firms to use the official foreign currency auction system.

The forex auction has been dogged by challenges with some bidders waiting for a month without accessing their money. The system has seen an emergence of arbitrage as currency manipulators access cheap foreign currency for rent-seeking behaviour on the black market.

“We have since notified them (Satewave Technologies) of the need to get foreign currency from the RBZ auction,” the Treasury source said on Tuesday.

Xiaofeng did not respond to questions sent to her by the time of going to print.

Donations
Satewave has handed over 57 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing SARS-CoV-2 PCR reagents, machines that detect different variant of SARS-CoV-2, 1 000 boxes of Covid-19 traditional Chinese medicines valued at US$1,45 million.

Last month, Satewave Technologies donated air conditioning equipment to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) for its School of Academic and Staff Training computer laboratory.

The company has also donated two PCR machines, 100 test kits and 100 boxes of Chinese traditional medicine to the Defence and War Veterans Affairs ministry.

Defence and War Veterans Affairs minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri described Satewave as “benevolent” when she received the handouts.

History
Satewave Technologies was founded in 2008 and is an engineering and technical service company engaged in telecommunications, power, smart city solutions and renewable energy.

According to its website, Satewave is a shaper of global solar industry operating both upstream in module supply and downstream in project development.

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