ICT, Postal and Courier Services minister Supa Mandiwanzira is reportedly frustrating the commencement of a multi-million dollar project by a Chinese firm by his delay in signing the contract, despite $500 000 having been sunk into a feasibility study.
BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
A Chinese firm, China International Telecommunication Construction Corporation (CITCC), wanted to undertake a ubiquitous mobile broad-band (UMBB) infrastructure, smart cities and e-Parliament project.
The project is expected to improve and upgrade the NetOne network, improve coverage, calling connection and speed at accessing the Internet and resultantly decrease tariffs, according to documents seen by NewsDay.
The delay in approving the project comes after Mandiwanzira reportedly assured NetOne that the UMBB project was included on the list of projects to be launched by the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping and President Robert Mugabe when the Asian giant’s President visited the country in December.
“Unfortunately Supa Mandiwanzira did not include the project on the list of projects to be launched. Mandiwanzira has been to China every month since August. He has also met leaders of China Telecom and CITCC including the President of China Telecom,” the document reads.
Mandiwanzira yesterday told NewsDay that he was not part of NetOne management and there was no way he could have frustrated “a process where he only received documents for presentation to Cabinet”.
“How am I supposed to have done that? I am not NetOne management and neither am I the board. I only receive documents deliberated and approved by the NetOne board for taking to Cabinet,” he said.
“I cannot take forward projects that have not come through the board. I have had some people approach me about such a company, including a middleman from Uganda. But I have told them the process to follow.”
The documents said Mandiwanzira had assured CITCC and NetOne Cellular (Pvt) Ltd that he supported the project 100%. It said CITCC was surprised to discover that the minister had instructed the NetOne Cellular (Pvt) Ltd board not to sign the contract until he gives the go ahead.
“Since July 2015, CITCC has spent over $500 000 in the process of research,
feasibility study and associated costs related to the project. It is against the above background that we request the government to expedite the signing of the contract.”
The project was supposed to have commenced last year after Mandiwanzira was introduced to CITCC officials.
After the introduction, Mandiwanzira reportedly sought approval from the Finance ministry, which he got on the basis that the project was “viable and self-sustaining”.
There were months of consultations. Following that, NetOne and CITCC signed a non-disclosure agreement on July 16 and subsequently held a meeting with Mandiwanzira before the MoU was signed on July 24.
A feasibility study funded by CITCC was conducted.
A technical report was then discussed with NetOne and the final report was submitted for approval and later submitted to the business committee which also approved.
“In October 2015, the commercial contract was submitted to NetOne Cellular (Pvt) Ltd, which after review and consideration, approved the project and on November 2, NetOne Cellular (Pvt) Ltd submitted the contract to the State Procurement Board (SPB) for approval. The SPB, on November 13, 2015 approved the project and resolved that NetOne Cellular (Pvt) Ltd should seek approval for the project funding from the Treasury,” the document reads.
Suspended chief executive officer, Reward Kangai then sought assistance from the secretary of Finance and Economic Development in securing financing for the project from China Exim-Bank.
The secretary subsequently wrote to secretary for Information Communications Technology, Postal and Courier Services expressing government’s support for the project.
Kangai was then assured by the parent ministry of support for the project.
The project was expected to bring in Chinese investment, drive economic growth with $150 million earnings per annum after completion, as well as facilitate telecommunications development in the country and make Zimbabwe a communications hub in Southern Africa.