Deep cartels (Part 3): Spotlighting Auxillia Mnangagwa

She won’t come close to the amount of coverage that Auxillia is getting on ZBC and the other public media, and she has been around as the first lady for only just over six years.

A couple of days ago, I was talking to a Malawian pal and he was so concerned about how their own first lady, Monica Chakwera, could be using different hands to dip into the coffers, so to speak.

“It’s the same thing in Africa, These first ladies do all sorts of things, taking advantage of the fact that they are all-powerful and it’s difficult to hold them accountable,” my buddie said, almost as if he believed I had never tried to see things the same way.

I have, and still do, but that’s not to say I’m convicting anyone yet, our own first lady included. There are issues, though. Issues that need to be talked about because it’s very easy for the wife of a head of state to abuse her position to cast the banquets for herself, family and cronies.

You can’t resist the temptation to be gloom-ridden on this one. You will recall the dirty things that Grace Mugabe, the fake PhD that Mai Mnangagwa succeeded. I have said it before that Grace, for one, could have used State House as a money laundering factory.

Remember how she imported many mega-money things in the name of the State House, things that she highly possibly went on to sell off as she also covered up for other late-night shenanigans.

The dude who was then in charge of state residences, Douglas Tapfuma, was arrested when Mugabe was brought down, for hiding behind his position to smuggle in close to a hundred high-value vehicles.

Grace did lots of other things, of course. When the current regime took over, it named her among some of the biggest externalisers of foreign currency. Nothing happened to her, but who is surprised?

The point is, as my Malawian friend from Mzuzu said, first ladies use their proximity to power to steal and chow. They are powerful, sometimes more powerful than their own husbands, as was the case in the twilight days of Robert Mugabe.

That brings me back to Auxillia. Me, I watch ZTV news for as often as Zesa permits. I must say I frequently get to the edge of the couch most of the time when the news presenters get to work.

 The first lady, when she features in the news as she almost always does, gets into the lead story. Now, once they start talking about anything involving her, they go on and on for not less 25 minutes per the main one-hour bulletin. That means she is always taking slightly under 50% of prime news time!

Stats don’t lie, if they aren’t rigged. Not even President Emmerson Mnangagwa gets as much attention on ZBC as his one and only. If that doesn’t show you how powerful she has become, nothing else will. Grace was notorious, yes, but do your research.

She won’t come close to the amount of coverage that Auxillia is getting on ZBC and the other public media, and she has been around as the first lady for only just over six years.

That’s enough to convince you how powerful Auxillia has become, as we still count. And, as they say, power corrupts. Again, this is not to say the First Lady is corrupt or has been corrupted by power. It’s just that she can be, if she is not already there.

When she gets all that decade-long coverage on ZTV per day, they are mostly blubbering about her charity work at her Angel of Hope Foundation. Call it tele-charity. Pretty like you would call the work of those fake pentecostal prophets, televangelism. And this is where you need to start from.

Charity of that sort, by its very nature, is hugely opaque. Money gets in and money gets out, but we don’t know how, when, what amounts and who is involved. Most of the time. If they don’t want, there won’t be any audits.

 That means that you won’t be able to establish where charity money is coming from and how much is involved. This thick veil of opacity makes it easy for the one who is running the charity to abuse her position and do all sorts of naughty things.

Charities have been known to be used to launder money the world over, and there is no good reason to believe that our own first lady will suddenly be an angel. Even the name of her foundation may just be there to mask and sanitise evil things.

Take gold laundering, for instance. It doesn’t help Auxillia and her husband that their names have already been dropped in systematic gold smuggling.

That in itself is a yellow flag. Some types of smoke come without a fire, yes, but many others do. It’s possible that the first lady can take advantage of her Angel of Hope charity to slip in some good millions in dirty gold money under the cover of opacity.

 Like, a gold smuggler or cartel of the proportion of the Gold Mafia will pretend to be donating to the charity while, in fact, hiding the proceeds of laundered money.

With the PVO (Amendment) Bill set to become law any time, it will be interesting to see if the Angel of Hope Foundation will be treated the same way as other non-profit organisations just so that it’s not used to fund terrorism too.

For, by definition in the revised bill, that foundation will have to be treated as a PVO. But then, you ask. If Mnangagwa is busy placing strategic public entities under his garment to avoid scrutiny, what chances would there be for the charity to be scrutinised?

The possibility of the First Lady morphing into a cartelist is not without rhyme on another front. There are certain things that she has involved herself in when, as a first lady, she musn’t have. That is conflating her role a first lady and government business that seems to entail big but dark money.

Take her trip to Belarus in early April last year. Auxillia took her two twins, Collins and Sean, on a chartered Gulfstream G550 plane on a trip that cost hundreds of thousands in American dollars for the flight alone.

The Belarusian media told us that she discussed government business there, with that country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, promising Zimbabwe numerous projects “at the request of your country”. He also said he would do something for charity, interestingly.

But the bigger catch is what had happened prior to the visit and after. The government and a Belarusian delegation to Harare had agreed on a deal for Belarus to supply some 131 fore tenders at insanely inflated prices. The government, through July Moyo, then Local Government minister, went on to force those tenders on local authorities. Question is, who took the “profits”?

Talking about July Moyo leads to another issue where Auxillia is concerned. That’s the murky Pomona waste-to-energy deal. Here, Moyo arm-twisted the Harare City Council to surrender its dumpsite in Hatcliffe to Geo Pomona Waste Management that is jointly managed with Geogenix BV, a Dutch company.

I see that Auxillia has developed keen interest in Geo Pomona, appearing at the project’s events, etc. This is a project whose managers are so dump they invested in a world class stadium at the dumpsite ahead of the actual works, as if they expect to groom green flies into top league soccer legends. 

Where are they getting the millions to build that gargantuan perimeter wall and a stadium well before the actual project? We know they have ordered the Harare municipality to pay big fees a month to dump refuse on its own estate, but questions still linger about the other monies that are apparently being poured into the project. For all we care, Geo Pomona could just as well be another dirty squid laundromat.

The first lady is doing a good job promoting a national dress through her own efforts. But you need to pause and think. What is the relationship between her own project and the national fabric that we hear civil servants are being forced to buy? If the rumour is indeed a fact, you then wonder whether this is not a case of business manipulation whereby a market is being created for Mai Mnangagwa.

Like I said, we are still counting. As it turns out, there seem to be efforts to give her more political mileage, with the opposition led by Sengezo Tshabangu seemingly having been bought to make Auxillia a women’s ambassador as if we don’t have a ministry dedicated to that already, and to smuggle her into parliament through some weird power sharing deal with the Zanu PF government.

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

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