PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s anti-corruption unit has reportedly opened investigations into former President Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law, Simba Chikore’s involvement in the botched ZimAirways deal, NewsDay can reveal.
Highly-placed sources told NewsDay last week that Chikore, married to Mugabe’s daughter, Bona, is the subject of an investigation over his involvement in the purchase of aircraft under a ZimAirways deal.
“He (Chikore) is being investigated for his role in the deal, but it seems the whole issue could suck in Mugabe himself or better still, his wife (former First Lady Grace). Chikore is said to have been engaged as a consultant in the ZimAirways deal at a time he was employed as Air Zimbabwe’s chief operating officer.
“You will remember that deal was supposed to be part of the resuscitation of the national airline, but it was later revealed that ZimAirways was part of a private company owned by individuals. It is an intricate web that we are trying to understand,” the source close to the investigation said.
Thabani Mpofu, who heads Mnangagwa’s anti-graft unit, was not available for comment.
Transport ministry secretary George Mlilo referred questions to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc).
“Zacc have all the information. Talk to them. But I can confirm that we are aware that the planes are owned by the government,” he said.
Zacc commissioner in charge of investigations Goodson Nguni confirmed the anti-graft body has a report on the matter.
“Indeed, we have received a complaint regarding that issue and we are investigating it. I cannot say much at the moment suffice to say it is alleged he employed people without permits and that he (Chikore) has been purporting to work for the government of Zimbabwe, but does not have a contract yet he exercised executive power at ZimAirways,” Nguni said, adding information available showed that the shadowy airline is a government entity.
Former Transport minister Joram Gumbo early this year confirmed that Chikore was a consultant at ZimAirways, but indicated that the latter only got involved after he resigned from Air Zimbabwe.
Information gathered shows that Chikore negotiated on behalf of the local company in the deal that involved the purchase of aircraft from Malaysia.
The Malaysian government had reportedly grounded the MH series after two major incidents in 2014.
Zimbabwe, looking to jump-start a struggling national flag carrier, offered to buy the planes, triggering a scandal that might have prejudiced the country of millions of dollars.
“From what has been gathered thus far, the government on behalf of a private entity the Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company, paid about $110 million, but only $50 million was received by the Malay authorities,” another source said.
Harare lawyer Phillipa Philips, who has represented Chikore in the past said she had since stopped doing so over what she said were integrity issues.
“I have heard he is being investigated, but I no longer represent him,” Philips said.
Asked to elaborate on why their relationship broke down, Philips suggested Chikore was an “imposter.”
“He keeps insisting he is a captain, but has never shown or proven that he is one. Those that worked with him at Air Zimbabwe and Qatar Airways say he never qualified. These issues of integrity, I value very much and he seems to think he can do anything because he is politically connected,” the lawyer said.