The murky fire sale begins

Both Chivayo and Nguwaya do not hesitate to flaunt their wealth and proximity to the First Family.

GOVERNMENT officials have been fire-fighting all over the mainstream and social media platforms trying to douse the alleged Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) procurement scam, but this is a tea-party compared to the raucous from the Mutapa Investment Fund (MIF) fire sale of State-owned companies in the coming weeks and months.

Government’s procurement of goods and services and disposal of assets is shrouded in secrecy, but this is going to get murkier with the proposed sale or partial disinvestment from companies under MIF’s ambit.

And this week, the alleged voice notes of controversial tenderpreneur Wicknell Chivayo on how the US$40 million Zec procurement of biometric kits was done and proceeds of the loot were shared among the players emerged.

Zimbabwe is entering the realm of catfish, the fish that thrives in muddy waters, compared to the era of vultures that only circle over dying prey in broad daylight.

This is the error, oops era   deliberately caused by President Emmerson Mnangagwa when he changed the procurement and disposal of State assets through a statutory instrument early this year.

In the diktat, Mnangagwa said companies under MIF would be precluded from following the dictates of the Public Procurement And Disposal Of Public Assets Act.

In short, there will be no open tendering for goods and services or alerting of the markets of assets that will be sold, but all will be done in the dark and quietly.

Many wondered why the changes were necessary as people were not aware that this was creating the conducive environment for catfish to thrive.

This can be seen from the murky transactions, where one convicted criminal Chivayo has amassed millions from State tenders.

Two examples will suffice for now — the Zec biometric equipment tender and the 100 megawatt Gwanda solar project.

While at it, let’s bring another controversial name Delish Nguwaya of the infamous Draxgate at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the face of the Geogonix Waste Management project that controversially took over Harare City Council’s Pomona Dumpsite without going to tender.

Both Chivayo and Nguwaya do not hesitate to flaunt their wealth and proximity to the First Family.

They actually thrive and revel in it.

They have actually become the poster boys of Mnangagwa’s call itai mari (make money) to Zimbabweans.

Let’s turn back to the proposed disposal of MIF assets that we came to know of this week through the State-controlled The Herald.

A little background on the behemoth is necessary.

MIF was formed in 2023, through an SI and later regularised by the Finance Act 2024 that customarily accompanies the approval of the annual budget statement.

MIF is the transformed Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe.

It had no assets and most parastatals were hived off from the ministries they were housed under and brought under the control of MIF.

They range from mines and claims, transport companies, energy companies, agro-processing entities, financial institutions to telecommunication companies.

All in all, there are over 65 entities.

These entities are only answerable to the President.

They do not follow procurement regulation nor dispose of their assets or equity transparently.

Proceeds from the sales can be externalised without questions.

These are the murky waters where catfish thrive, as earlier mentioned.

MIF chief investment officer Simba Chinyemba recently let the cat out of the bag in London, the capital of the United Kingdom, when he announced the imminent sale to investors.

The investors were told that 65 companies were on the table.

These included Zesa Holdings and Petrotrade (energy), Zupco, National Railways of Zimbabwe and Air Zimbabwe (transport), Kuvimba Mining House and Hwange Colliery (mining), TelOne and NetOne (telecoms) and Arda and Cottco (agriculture).

The Herald quoted Chinyemba as saying: “I can’t say which assets are those because it depends on our strategy. But certainly, as we go through their turnaround strategy for a lot of these SOEs [State-owned entities], we are willing to have discussions with various investors about the way forward.

“MIF is open for business. We are happy to listen to investors who come to Zimbabwe. These opportunities are immense and the perceived risk is much higher than the real risk in Zimbabwe.”

It is clear that no one knows the conditions of the sale or the probable time of disposal.

However, one thing is certain   deals will be closed soon on the table or under the table in my view.

Anyway, laws have been changed already to facilitate such transactions away from any public scrutiny.

The ducks are now in a row.

It is conceivable that in the muddied pond, the catfish will go for the kill at a song and then flock the assets to international investors at a premium, making millions of profits for simply being a middleman.

This smells like Russia of the 1990s that produced the oligarchs.

By the way, Mnangagwa was in Russia recently and he is most likely to have pulled a page or two from the Russian manual of disposing State assets.

It would most likely be a fire sale. A fire sale is defined as “a sale of goods or assets at a very low price, typically when the seller is facing bankruptcy”.

But why a fire sale?

Choking national debt at 98,5% of the GDP according to the IMF April 2024 report.

Mnangagwa wants to impress the Brettonwoods institutions as a reformer and a trusted neoliberal who understands that the State has no role in business, but should facilitate a conducive environment for private capital to flourish.

Parliament and civil society have a big role to stop this fire sale for the benefit of the catfish dead in its tracks.

Transparency and accountability at every level should be demanded. Proper tendering should be done and the sales approved by Parliament before they are concluded.

This needs men and women of spine, unless what is alleged in Chivayo’s statement is true that he has them by the balls, kuvati dzvii.

Then the fire sale will take place and posterity will curse this generation as good for nothing except being keyboard warriors who produced nice soundbites.


  • Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist based in Harare. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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