Minister Monica Mutsvangwa in trouble as Starlink scandal unfolds

Minister Monica Mutsvangwa

WOMEN Affairs minister Monica Mutsvangwa is said to be under intense pressure within government and Zanu PF circles over her alleged involvement in the purchase of a Starlink kit by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

Mutsvangwa, who was Information minister when the deal was done, is alleged to have used her influence to get ZBC to purchase the Starlink kit.

The procurement of the Starlink internet kit, whose usage in Zimbabwe is not authorised, has already claimed the scalp of ZBC chief executive officer Adelaide Chikunguru.

Chikunguru, who opted to resign after she was suspended by the ZBC board, was facing a range of charges which included giving the greenlight to purchase the Starlink internet kit.

Starlink is a satellite internet service operated by United States-based aerospace company SpaceX, which is owned by American billionaire Elon Musk.

The state-run broadcasting firm acquired Starlink when Mutsvangwa was presiding over the Information ministry.

ZBC falls under the same ministry. Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services ministry secretary Nick Mangwana told The Standard that the matter was under investigation.

“The information that we have is that the regulator (Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe -Potraz) visited the premises of ZBC over the matter on (last) Thursday,” Mangwana said.

“At the moment we are not yet aware of their findings.”

In February, a mining firm was fined US$700 for unauthorised use of Starlink.

Last week, a Victoria Falls based company was also fined US$500 for unauthorised use of Starlink internet services.

Potraz has issued stern warnings against the advertising, distribution and use of Starlink.

The controversial purchase of the Starlink kit by ZBC has raised serious questions about the role Mutsvangwa could have played as a minister.

Sources familiar with how the government was dealing with the matter that has raised grave questions of possible favouritism, nepotism and conflict of interest told The Standard that Mutsvangwa was under increasing pressure to resign.

“Top officials in the party (Zanu PF) and government are increasingly concerned over the potential involvement of Mutsvangwa in awarding the Starlink kit contract,” sources said.

“They have pointed out that this is a clear case of favouritism and nepotism, which must result in the minister resigning from government.

“Influential party and government officials are worried about the transaction because the government has not licensed Starlink to offer internet services in Zimbabwe.”

Before Chikunguru opted to step down from her role, images of a ZBC outside broadcast van with a Starlink kit mounted on top surfaced on the internet.

The former executive is also accused of arm twisting ZBC to pay US$150 000 annually to Azam TV, a satellite TV service provider.

Mutsvangwa presided over the ceremony when Azam TV launched its services in Zimbabwe in 2022.

“Basically, Monica feels cornered over her involvement in the Starlink transaction,” a source close to the matter said.

Mutsvangwa declined to address questions posed by The Standard on the matter.

This publication also wanted to understand whether Mutsvangwa was contemplating resigning because of the scandal.

Mutsvangwa, whose husband Chris was booted out of government by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in February, served as Information minister since 2018.

Chris was the minister of Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Affairs before he was sacked.

Meanwhile, Chikunguru has pulled down her LinkedIn posts where she alleged an assassination plot against her at a Zanu PF conference.

In her post, she accused the national broadcasters’ board, Information minister Jenfan Muswere and indirectly, Mnangagwa, of violating corporate governance principles.

Chikunguru was forced out of office over two weeks ago over a slew of allegations among them entering into a contract with the yet-to-be-licenced American internet service provider, Starlink, abuse of funds, and embarking on foreign trips unsanctioned by the board, among others.

She resigned soon after the suspension to avoid a disciplinary hearing.

Soon after her resignation, she went on LinkedIn and started making several allegations against Muswere, the ZBC board chair Helliate Rushwaya, ZBC workers and Mnangagwa.

In one of her posts, she alleged an assassination plot claiming she survived an accident on her way to a Zanu PF meeting after wheel nuts on her service vehicle were loosened.

She alleged that Rushwaya was behind the plot.

She claimed she had audio recordings of her vowing to get her retired, and if it failed, “she was under instruction” from her principal to exterminate her.

Chikunguru, who is also accused of landing that job under unclear circumstances, did not clarify who the principal was.

“My life is at risk,” she had posted. “There are audios where she (Rushwaya) is heard saying that if she can’t remove me, then she will have to exterminate me as she is under instruction from the principal.”

The ZBC board is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Information minister.

Chikunguru also claimed that she has always been targeted by the workers and Rushwaya.

She accused Muswere and Mnangagwa of violating corporate governance regulations by appointing Rushwaya to the position of board chair barely three years after working as CEO for the national broadcaster.

She also claimed that Muswere made advances to her in 2021 in Chimanimani at the World Radio Day but she turned him down. Muswere was then ICT minister.

In another post, Chikunguru claimed that Rushwaya was after her because she applied for the position of CEO and failed to make it because she did not have a degree.

Chikunguru dropped a call when contacted for comment. She did not respond to WhatsApp and text messages sent to her. The Standard.

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