Corruption Watch: Mnangagwa, visiting Ruto exposed themselves

Pictures of Mnangagwa and President William Ruto of Kenya—who officially opened the expo—flanking Wicknell Chivayo went viral. 

There has been so much talk around President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s public speaking skills, dressing and conduct, and bigly little of it is flattering for a head of state.

His predecessor, the late Robert Mugabe, had so many weaknesses. But, at least, he knew how to talk, think coherently, dress and carry himself in public.

This may explain why he tended to earn the respect of both enemies and foes, in spite of his shortfalls.

I don’t guess that the Office of the President and Cabinet deliberately omitted taking the current head of state through grooming routines when he took over in 2017.

And, considering that he has participated in top-level politics since independence in 1980, there are certain lessons he must have mastered on his own over this close to half-a-century time in government.

It’s clear, though, that there are certain issues that he failed to appreciate in finishing school and seems incapable of accomplishing even now.

One of them is public conduct. In Mugabe’s time, it was unheard of—absolute taboo—to see the president hobnobbing with questionable characters.

His protocols office did an awesome job in that regard, screening who shook hands or sat at the same dinner table with him.

Those that are old enough will remember that Mugabe, the incoming prime minister then, was angrily opposed to the idea of Bob Marley performing at the first independence celebrations in 1980.

Ask Webster Shamu, aka Charles Ndlovu, for the fuller story.

Mugabe’s main reason had nothing to do with Marley’s music, which many viewed and still view as emancipating.

Mugabe just detested the idea that Marley had dreadlocks. In those days, dreadlocks were generally looked down upon.

Well, blame that on the British cultural mentality, but the fact remains that spotting locks was considered to be against acceptable social mores even in Zimbabwe.

You may also want to mind the fact that Mugabe was initially not too keen on the idea of Michael Jackson visiting him in 1998 to discuss business opportunities and it took a lot of persuading from his nephew, Phillip Chiyangwa, to play ball.

 His reservation was based on reports that Wacko Jacko had been linked to some sleazy hanky-panky with small boys back at home in the USA.  

You may want to say Mugabe was being too fussy and grumpy with things — and excessively aloof — but the point remains that he was a teetotaler when it came to who he was seen in public with.

 That put him in a relatively safe space.

Not with Mnangagwa. That old man remains in the woods where this subject is concerned. Not long ago, he was pictured at State House with Mike Chimombe.

Nothing wrong with him being seen with Chimombe.

Problems started when we saw that Chimombe was dressed like an overgrown Oliver Twist or someone who had just come out of the drain on a rainy day.

The president has been pictured with all manner of controversial young men and women with questionable histories.

In the last election in 2023, he would always be surrounded by or associated with despicable political outfits. 

The one that easily takes the cup is Mahure4ED, a consortium of commercial sex workers that purported to be campaigning for him.

Even if Mahure4Ed may not have campaigned for him after all, there is one thing the president is expected to have done.

To publicly dissociate himself from this grouping of women considered by society to be highly dishonourable.

I have been forced to talk about this by what happened last week as the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair wound up.

Pictures of Mnangagwa and President William Ruto of Kenya—who officially opened the expo—flanking Wicknell Chivayo went viral. 

There is something very, very, very wrong about the pictures that we saw. Wicknell came out standing at the centre.

He easily dwarfed Mnangagwa and Ruto who looked in the images like decently dressed beggars.

Because of his bigger frame, Chivayo actually looked like he was the president, some kind of a tallish Laurent Kabila.

That goes against protocol. You don’t put a common person in between presidents, worse still if that person has a shadowy history.

The last time I checked, where dignitaries are concerned, the person standing to the immediate right is the next in hierarchy, while the one to the left is lesser than the one to the right.

Symbolically, the pics made Ruto appear like he was next in hierarchy to Chivayo, with Mnangagwa coming third.

Yet things become very clumsy that way.

Mnangagwa was always supposed to be the man at the centre as the host president, Ruto coming next and Chivayo nowhere near the two, of course. 

The two presidents, therefore, belittled themselves by flanking Chivayo.

Here is the thing. Chivayo is a “bandit”, a word they use here to refer to a criminal who has served jail time.

 Chivayo was convicted of fraud some time back. That gives him a life-long criminal tag. A proper president musn’t be seen in the company of a convicted criminal.

There may be exceptions to this, though — lest I be accused of bigotry and perpetuating a stigma against ex-convicts.

Prison is supposed to be a correctional and rehabilitation facility. But you wouldn’t exactly say Chivayo got rehabilitated when he served time in the cooler.

You know how it happened now. We are still grappling with the issue of mega-millions he got from government for a power project he never did.

That doesn’t make him clean, and it makes those who go on photo-shoots with him conscious or naïve accomplices. 

I don’t know if Ruto is aware of what he was being made to go through by being pictured with Chivayo. What the whole thing means for his reputation.

Maybe diplomatic protocol left him with no choice, but to kowtow or he was just taken by surprise or just didn’t have a clue who Wicknell is. Whatever the case, the whole thing was a mess.

Ruto must be made to know that he stepped into a deep cesspool by being pictured with Wicknell, the dude who has been dishing out many millions on cars and gifts to fawning artists, individuals and institutions.

The problem doesn’t lie in his “philanthropy”. Instead, it is located in the shadowiness of the “charity”.

Here in Zimbabwe and abroad, there is a sensibly stubborn question around where Chivayo is getting the money. And the most appealing conspiracy theories are: he is being used by powerful politicians to manage questionable government tenders, is involved in complex trans-border money laundering, or both.

And Chivayo himself has never been able to explain his source of riches.

The other time in early February, he mumbled to some fawning radio presenters that he owned “many businesses”. Yet he has never been able to name a single company he runs.

 That’s a scarlet-red flag.

Worse still, he claimed to the radio presenters that he also ran a South Africa-based company that was supplying millions of litres of fuel to Lesotho every week. He didn’t name the company, predictably.

But as if that was not bad enough, the Lesotho Energy ministry has flatly dismissed Chivayo’s claim, insisting that neither he nor anyone linked to him is doing that sort of thing.

He didn’t name the company, predictably. But as if that was not bad enough, the Lesotho Energy ministry has flatly dismissed Chivhayo’s claim, insisting that he or anyone linked to him is doing that sort of thing.

If you lie in one instance, you are highly likely to lie in the other cases.

That means Chivhayo’s fable that he plies his trade in such countries like Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya is mostly likely to be just that, a fable.

Especially given the fact that, weirdly, he is not able to name a single company that he owns.

The fact that Chivayo mentions Kenya among the countries where he says he is doing business puts Ruto in a slippery and invidious position.

For it gives fertility to the speculation that, after all, he and Chivayo know each somehow.

Here at home, some people—forgivably—believe Chivayo is running on behalf of powerful politician-tenderpreneurs.

 It could also be true that Wicknell is running for Ruto.

Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that the Zimbabwean young man was in the right place at the right time for the photo-shoot at the trade fair? 

  • Tawanda Majoni writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on [email protected].

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