FORMER Information, Communication, Technology minister, Supa Mandiwanzira was yesterday arrested on criminal abuse of office charges after he allegedly single-handedly awarded an over $5 million consultancy services contract for NetOne to a company linked to him.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
Mandiwanzira becomes the fifth former Cabinet minister to be arrested on corruption charges after former Foreign minister Walter Mzembi, who faces charges of criminal abuse of office, and former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo, who has been charged for trying to defraud the central bank over a decade ago.
Former Health minister David Parirenyatwa was also arrested on charges of criminal abuse of office just over a month ago, while his former Energy counterpart Samuel Undenge was in July found guilty of corruption and sentenced to four years in jail.
Also, former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo and his deputy Godfrey Gandawa face allegations of swindling the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund of $400 000. Both are currently on the run.
The former ICT minister yesterday handed himself to the CID Serious Frauds Department in Harare in the company of his lawyers Selby Hwacha and instructing Advocates Thembinkosi Magwaliba and Brian Hungwe soon after landing from China.
Police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed Mandiwanzira’s arrest.
Mandiwanzira was last night reportedly detained at Matapi Police Station in Mbare and is expected to appear in court today.
His lawyers said their client was denying the allegations.
“Mandiwanzira handed himself over to the police upon return from a business trip overseas and he is denying the allegations. He advised the police that Megawatt Energy offered consultancy services at no cost to the government and that consultancy led to the recovery of tens of millions of dollars for NetOne,” Mandiwanzira’s lawyer said in a statement.
He is accused of single-handedly engaging Megawatt Energy, a company he has interests in, to do consultancy work for NetOne without going to tender.
It is alleged he then directed NetOne to pay Megawatt Company $4 million for the service and $1 million for consultancy.
He is also accused of appointing his personal assistant Tawanda Chinembiri, a civil servant at director level, to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) board in violation of corporate governance principles.
The appointment allegedly caused a prejudice of $35 000 through board allowances paid out to Chinembiri.
In 2017, the same allegations of criminal abuse of office were raised by former NetOne CEO, Reward Kangai.
Kangai claimed Mandiwanzira engaged a South African firm for consultation services without going to tender as is standard procedure. The former NetOne boss said he was shocked to receive an invoice for $4 million which neither he nor the board knew about.
It was alleged that the company which had been engaged by Mandiwanzira is a Chinese-run South African firm called Megawatt Energy. It was engaged to investigate a $248m deal between NetOne and Huawei to see if the parastatal had not been overcharged.
Kangai reported that Mandiwanzira said that NetOne had saved $31m owing to Megawatt’s consultation services as the parastatal had indeed been overcharged. As such NetOne was supposed to pay $4m to Megawatt as they were instructed by the minister.
However, Kangai said in his report that Megawatt was handpicked by Mandiwanzira to audit the Huawei deal and the firm did not provide a detailed report on how they arrived at the “so-called saving of $31 million.”
Kangai refused to honour the invoice claiming it was illegal for him to do so.
The former NetOne boss alleged that Mandiwanzira’s company, Blue Nightingale Trading jointly owns a building with CSEEC South Africa, LXD Group and Megawatt Energy Pvt Ltd. These companies were allegedly owned by Xiaodong who is a director at Megawatt Energy. Xiaodong is the one who signed the $4m NetOne invoice.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has promised zero tolerance to corruption that stifled economic growth under former President Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule, early this year fired the country’s top prosecutor for allegedly failing to pursue high-profile graft cases.