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Will Wicknell be Mnangagwa’s downfall?

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has initiated an investigation into potential money laundering and abuse of office involving businesspeople Wicknell Chivayo, Mike Chimombe, and Moses Mpofu.

BY Tendai Ruben Mbofana

During the last days of Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s reign, his wife, Grace, had become unhinged.

She would step on everyone’s toes, including those who had kept her husband at the helm for decades, even well before he became leader of Zimbabwe.

She would insult and humiliate top government officials, including then Vice President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, in public.

The situation had clearly gotten out of hand as she perceived herself untouchable.

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Those around Mugabe had had enough!

The only way to finally clip her wings and cut her down to size was to remove the source of her seemingly unrestricted powers.

Mugabe had to go.

And, when he made the fateful decision to fire Mnangagwa on 6 November 2017, that was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

A few days later, military tanks rolled into the capital Harare, Mugabe was held hostage by his own generals and forced to resign.

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Shortly after, Mnangagwa took over as the new President of Zimbabwe.

Of course, tensions had already been high within the ruling party and government due to fierce power struggles.

Mnangagwa had viciously pushed Mugabe into sacking the previous Vice President, Joice Mujuru, on 9 December 2014 – thereby placing himself in line to be the next president.

Due to Mugabe’s advanced age, I am quite sure Mnangagwa was willing to wait patiently for his boss to pass away and then take over.

However, Grace’s antics made it very hard to wait.

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The more she became daring in her shenanigans, the more imperative it became to get rid of her husband.

Had it not been for Grace, maybe Mugabe would have served out his last days on earth in power.

I am seeing history repeating itself once again.

As the saying goes: Those who do not learn from history are likely to make the same mistakes of the past.

Now we are watching in utter horror as dubious businessman and convicted criminal Wicknell Chivayo grows his own set of wings clearly on account of his proximity to Mnangagwa.

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The ex convict has undoubtedly become Mnangagwa’s closest ally and may be stepping on the toes of those around the president.

We are already seeing him being treated more highly than Mnangagwa’s two deputies – Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi.

He was even permitted to be present at a meeting between Mnangagwa and visiting Kenyan President William Ruto in April 2024 – at which the three had a picture taken.

He (Chivayo) was at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Airport, in Bulawayo, to welcome the President – a role usually preserved for the two vice presidents.

Just yesterday, Chivayo was at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to see off Mnangagwa as he departed for the South Korea-Africa Summit.

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Then, there are reports of questionable contracts being entered into by Chivayo and various state institutions.

Who can forget the US$173 million 100MW Gwanda solar plant tender he was awarded way back in 2015 by power utility ZESA, but which has gone nowhere?

Just last year, Chivayo entered into another shady deal with the ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) to the tune of US$40 million for the supply of voting material for the August 2023 harmonized elections.

The deal, in which Chivayo and his partners were handpicked, was ostensibly approved by the Office of the President and Cabinet as well as ZEC chair Priscilla Chigumba.

All this, despite the fact that Chivayo and his partners – ZANU PF sympathizers businessmen Mike Chimombe and Moses Mpofu, through Scott Sakupwana’s Better Brands Security – had no specialty, capacity, or experience in the procurement of election equipment and materials.

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This is where it all gets interesting.

The man is reportedly trampling all over those around his protector, Mnangagwa – just as Grace was doing.

For instance, he is alleged to have gone behind the backs of his partners in the ZEC deal to sign a new fraudulent agreement, which resulted in him receiving all the money at the expense of Chimombe, Mpofu, and Sakupwana.

In a similar fashion, there are strong suspicions that Chivayo was behind the arrest of and repeated denial of bail to Neville Mutsvangwa – son to ZANU PF heavyweights Chris and Monica Mutsvangwa.

This was ostensibly done to keep him away from entering into a deal with satellite internet provider Starlink, owned by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

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In an unprecedented move, the subsequent sole and exclusive distributor agreement between Starlink and Chivayo’s IMC Communications was announced by Mnangagwa himself via an X post.

There are so many other opaque deals involving Chivayo – including being jailed for two years (2005 to 2007) for money laundering.

Nonetheless, I have picked only these two to show how he is abusing his proximity to Mnangagwa to step on the toes of fellow ZANU PF comrades.

How is that making all these people feel, not only about Chivayo but also his apparent protector, Mnangagwa?

What about the two vice presidents?

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What do they think about this close relationship between Mnangagwa and Chivayo, which has gone as far as the latter seemingly replacing them?

How about Mnangagwa’s own family?

Did they not also want in on all these deals going Chivayo’s way?

Besides, is the appointment of Mnangagwa’s family members (including son and nephew) into ministerial and other high profile posts not already causing issues within ruling elite circles?

We even watch as his wife, Auxillia, throw her weight around as if she actually held a senior government position – yet the first lady title does not hold any official authority.

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I can sense resentment against Mnangagwa brewing – and the end does not smell right.

Just as in the case of Mugabe, tensions are already high within the ruling establishment – with Chiwenga reportedly eager to take over as the new head of state.

Yet, here we have Mnangagwa openly eyeing a third term in office.

So, is Mnangagwa not playing with fire, especially in this relationship with Chivayo – who has clearly grown too big for his shoes?

Will this not be the catalyst that will hasten his (Mnangagwa’s) own downfall?

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Only time will tell.

As the Shona adage goes: Kana kangoma koririsa kave pedyo nekubvaruka!

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a Zimbabwe-based social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. He has always been passionate about standing up and speaking out for the voiceless and oppressed. He has been relentless in his quest and dream of a country where all Zimbabweans enjoy their social justice.

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