Ndakachibata kuti dzvii: Businessman Wicknell Chivayo’s saga latest

Kenyan leader President William Samoei Ruto, businessman Wicknell Chivayo and President ED Mnangagwa

Wicknell Chivayo, a wealth-flaunting businessman who has made millions of dollars from government contracts was on the backfoot on Wednesday after voice notes of him boasting of levering his proximity to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to secure more business from the government emerged.

Chivayo is also heard on the audios, which were apparently sent in January this year to a closed WhatsApp group he opened with his now estranged business partners, claiming to have made several payments to senior government officials in order to land a supply contract with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

In a lengthy statement issued on Wednesday, he denied that the voice on the audios was his but went on to apologise to Mnangagwa, his wife, CIO director general Isaac Moyo, chief cabinet secretary Martin Rushwaya and ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba for the “adverse impression” that has been created that “these authorities are involved in corruption or participate in illicit transactions.”

Separately, Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba said “offensive name dropping” of the president does not “automatically indict the president and government.”

“Claims don’t become true because they have been made, or because some detractors of the president, in chorus form, wish them to be so,” Charamba wrote on X.

Charamba accused government critics and the media of “cultivating mere tall claims… hoping that such claims will one day attach to the president, grow and mature into some non-existent scandal enormous enough to trip him.”

“Nothing can be more insane,” he added.

Chivayo, whose garage boasts half a dozen Rolls Royce cars and has given away more than 100 vehicles to Zanu PF-leaning public figures in less than a year, has been put in a spot of bother after his relationship with business partners Moses Mpofu and Mike Chimombe went sour.

Mpofu and Chimombe, who are demanding US$10 million in lost earnings from Chivayo, have released damaging information on him, including now viral audios revealing the inner workings of their collapsed partnership.

In particular, the information which includes confidential documents appears to show that Chivayo won contracts of up to US$40 million with ZEC in the run-up to the August 2023 general elections. These were for the provision of tents, electronic devices, biometric hardware and software, ink, and training among others.

In his statement on Wednesday, he denied any contracts with ZEC.

“I have not, whether personally or through my companies, been a party to a contract with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the department of immigration or the Zimbabwe Republic Police as insinuated in the manufactured voice messages,” he said.

Chivayo became the talk of the country when he started dolling out vehicles to Zanu PF-linked individuals including musicians, social media influencers and churches. In March this year, he flew on Mnangagwa’s helicopter to make a US$1 million donation to the Zion Christian Church.

He has also been seen in Mnangagwa’s company in various settings, raising eyebrows after the Zanu PF leader previously criticised him for failing to deliver on a 100 MW solar power plant in Gwanda, for which he won a tender in 2015 and was paid US$6 million for pre-commencement works.

Chivayo’s apparently reckless expenditure and newfound friendship with Mnangagwa captivated Zimbabweans who wondered about the source of his wealth. Watching on too were Chimombe and Mpofu, who finally decided to lift the lid on their raging fight with the 41-year-old.

Mpofu, who previously supplied ZEC with kits for bio-metric voter registration in 2017, and Chimombe claim they were approached by Chivayo, who said he could secure contracts from ZEC without the need for a public tender. The initial discussions also involved the gold dealer, Scott Pedzisai Sakupwanya.

Through Sakupwanya’s Better Brands company, the men signed a contract with South African firm Ren Form which would do all the work and supply the materials at inflated prices. The mark-up on the price of the goods was to go to the partners.

Along the way, Chivayo allegedly told his partners that because the Better Brands bank account in South Africa was fairly new, the bank would flag any big payments going into it and then he suggested that they use the account of his company, Intratrek, instead.

Ren Form, according to documents seen by ZimLive, subsequently paid Chivayo through the Intratrek account. He transferred US$200,000 to Chimombe and a similar amount to Mpofu in various transactions before the payments stopped.

Chimombe and Mpofu claim, in letters written by their lawyers, that Chivayo fraudulently altered their agreement with Ren Form, leaving himself as the sole party to the contract.

Chivayo disputes this. He says he engaged the two men as consultants and let them go after paying them.

“These two failed, struggling briefcase businessmen Mike Chimombe and Moses Mpofu are merely overzealous extortionists and fraudsters who solely rely on opportunistic delinquency as a means of survival. If their demands for payment were indeed genuine, the duo should have approached the courts of law for redress,” he says.

But as the leaks of their private conversations continue, Chivayo is now having to contend with his name dropping which has roped in Mnangagwa and other top officials. He boasted, in one audio, that Mnangagwa had referred to him as his “son” and had, while departing for Italy, shook his hand last where he would normally finish with his two vice presidents.

On another voice note, Chivayo lists several people who he says should also get paid. They include someone he refers to as “DG” and “Moms”. DG is thought to refer to the director general of the CIO Isaac Moyo, and Moms a reference to Justice Chigumba.

A WhatsApp message seen by ZimLive, sent to the same group, also lists a GG – assumed to be a reference to George Guvamatanga, the permanent secretary in the finance ministry and the government’s paymaster.

Chigumba denied any links to Chivayo. Commenting would “breathe life to fiction,” she said.

“I hereby express my deep regret and profound apology to the esteemed office of President Mnangagwa, the first lady, the first family and any office or public official that these fake voice messages may have adversely affected or drawn into disrepute,” Chivayo said in his statement.

“I have taken a further step to personally extend my remorse and apologies to all director generals in the government upon whom the malicious voice messages may unjustly be construed as applying. I repeat that at no given time did I ever pay the director general of the CIO Isaac Moyo or the chief secretary to the president Martin Rushwaya any money whatsoever for any service.” ZimLive.

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