KENYAN columnist Njoki Chege defines a tenderpreneur as: “A young person, mostly male, who has made an extraordinary amount of money from a government contract — such as the supply of Biro pens or a consulting service of any kind . . . In his group of ‘boys’, he is the loudest because he thinks he is the most successful.”
Many people — myself included — had strong reservations when the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) took on board Wicknell Chivayo as virtually the sole sponsor of the national football teams.
The football-crazy nation could not help, but see a replay of the previous Zifa regime, where deposed Zifa president, Cuthbert Dube had run the football governing body single-handedly at his own whim from his own pocket through what proved to be his ill-gotten wealth as he was, as CEO, paying himself $500 000 monthly from Premier Service Medical Aid Society subscriptions, thereby shortchanging members.
Football was literally held hostage to the fortune of Dube, who gave an undertaking that proved difficult to live up to, as is often the case with such dubious sources of funding.
He thought his immense largesse gave him carte blanche to run Zifa as he pleased. This went against the grain of good corporate governance. It can be safely said that Dube left football in a much worse state than he found it.
Now Zifa has again put football in that invidious position of being held hostage to fortune with the self-styled “Sir Wicknell” giving an undertaking that he would foot national teams’ expenses, including paying the salary of national coach Kalisto Pasuwa.
It’s quite horrifying that Chivayo began sponsoring the Warriors last year in a curious deal with new Zifa boss, Philip Chiyangwa that was signed on a one-page document. One page? That says it all.
The folly of this has surfaced because Pasuwa has not received a cent since Chivayo’s pledge became operative in February this year. Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo warned as much this month, when he said Zifa needed a corporate sponsor rather than an individual benefactor, who could withdraw his support at a whim. In addition to that, there is need to spread sponsorship so that Zifa won’t be obliged to advance the interests of one big benefactor ahead of promoting football.
As Moyo rightly implied, the relationship between benefactor and beneficiary has to be clearly defined. This is because in many cases, the benefactor is not inclined to give much recognition to the beneficiary, seeing him as a weaker party. So the benefactor tends to periodically patronise the beneficiary, order him around and lecture him.
What we are seeing is the benefactor-beneficiary syndrome. Mutual respect and reciprocity exist only in the beginning. With the passage of time, the harmony in these relations breaks down for the reason that the benefactor becomes dismissive of the suggestions and proposals of the beneficiary, and even tries to impose his own point of view and control the behaviour of the benefactor.
Such persons think that other people are ignorant and stupid, and they often slam and belittle people who know the real facts. They think they are experts, but they know zero.
Are we not seeing that in the current row between President Robert Mugabe (the benefactor) and war veterans (beneficiaries)? Mugabe previously described war vets as a reserve force with equal standing as serving members of the military; now he calls them a mere affiliate of the ruling party.
Zifa, like the war vets, should never again allow itself to fall into someone’s clutches. The rightful owners of the game are the fans — in the same way war vets should owe allegiance to the State, not an individual. Are we clear? Crystal!
That said, Sir Wicknell, despite his boasts, could be nothing more than a tenderpreneur (coined from “tender” and “enterpreneur”). His money is all from tenders rather than enterprise. The source of his much-flaunted wealth are the $400 million dubious energy tenders awarded to him by the Zimbabwe Power Corporation, now under investigation because he has a criminal record of a convicted and jailed fraudster.
The Star, a South African newspaper, describes a tenderpreneur as “someone politically well-connected who has got rich through the government tendering system”.
This practice has given rise to kleptocracy — a government or State in which those in power exploit national resources and steal; that is, rule by a thief or thieves. In a kleptocracy, the political elite manipulates the three arms of government — legislature, executive and judiciary — with the intention of capturing State resources that will enrich them, a practice defined as elite capture.
In 2010, South African Communist Party leader and Cabinet minister Blade Nzimande called for transparency in the awarding of tenders, saying: “Let’s be bold, let’s go and promote small entrepreneurs and defeat tenderpreneurs, those who steal.” Indeed, let’s be bold and expose those who steal from the nation and then reappear as benefactors.
But here in Zimbabwe, we have a convicted and jailed fraudster, Chivayo with the temerity to post this message on social media site Facebook with an accompanying picture last Saturday: “Had dinner in Dubai yesterday with my mother [First Lady Grace Mugabe] and my little brother [Robert Mugabe Jnr] . . . I love my parents . . . Team Bob for life, there is nothing you can do to me.”
Does Sir Wicknell’s loudness and arrogance come from this “protection?” Well, we are still waiting for the First Family to distance themselves from that open boast. If they don’t come clean on that, people are going to pin Sir Wicknell’s excesses on them.
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org