Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo and his Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment counterpart Patrick Zhuwao last week took turns to hand President Robert Mugabe’s daughter Bona (pictured below) seats in boards of different state institutions, courting the ire of the opposition.
the big interview BY OBEY MANAYITI
Opposition parties described Bona’s appointment to the Censorship Board as part of plans by Zanu PF to create a Mugabe dynasty.
Before the controversy over the Censorship Board dissipated, Zhuwao on Friday announced that he had appointed Bona to the board of the proposed Empower Bank.
Zhuwao (PM), who is Mugabe’s nephew, yesterday told our reporter Obey Manayiti (OM) that he was unapologetic about the appointment. He said Mugabe’s children were entitled to serve the country in any capacity they desired. Below are excerpts of the interview.
OM: Can you briefly tell us about this soon-to-be-established Empower Bank, its mandate, vision and the targeted clients?
PZ: The Empower Bank is a response to the unattended economic needs and aspirations of youth and indigenous Zimbabwean entrepreneurs.
This group has generally been financially excluded and neglected by the established financial institutions.
The Empower Bank is intervening with tailor-made financial services that engage and provide for the most remote of persons and business within our economy.
Its clients will be the unbanked and underbanked innovative, enterprising and resilient youth and indigenous Zimbabwean entrepreneurs.
OM: Who are the shareholders in this bank and how will the government benefit from its existence?
PZ: The bank shall ensure the financial inclusion of youth and indigenous Zimbabweans.
Initially the government is the shareholder, having contributed $2,5 million. But the government should have not more than 10% shares.
Invitation will be made to other shareholders such as Nieef [National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Fund] and community share ownership trusts, to ensure broad ownership.
The government will benefit from the financial inclusion of the previously unbanked and neglected youth and indigenous Zimbabweans who must grow the new indigenous economy.
OM: Some have said the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (Nieeb) is a feeding trough for Zanu PF chefs, how transparent will this new project be?
PZ: Everything that government, through Nieeb, has done has been guided by a transparent system of broad based empowerment.
This is why communities, employees and youth have been benefitting within prescribed designated entities such as employee and community share ownership trusts.
In the case of youth, their funds for empowerment had always been entrusted to established banks in the financial services sector.
No politicians or chefs had access to these youth funds which were administered directly by banks such as CBZ, Stanbic and CABS.
So administration of those funds was always transparent.
Likewise, the Empower Bank, which will start as a micro finance institution called Twinstock Capital, shall be a transparent institution where government will have only 10% equity.
Private funds will also be part of that bank and yes, certainly it will be regulated like any other bank by the RBZ.
Remember, the Empower Bank will be feeding off young and indigenous entrepreneurs being nominated by local communities, from ward and constituencies, as the most deserving candidates for support from the bank.
Communities will have a major role to play under the Zimbabwe champions and Heroes of the Economic Empowerment Revolution (ZimCheer).
Already, ZimCheer has so far identified 39 385 young entrepreneurs across the country and it is from these that the best will be nominated by local communities, thereby ensuring accountability monitoring and supports mechanisms within communities.
There will be no room for patronage, partisanship or chefiism.
OM: What are your expectations from the recently-appointed Empower Bank board?
PZ: The board will be made up of people with the relevant expertise, knowhow and experience that will ensure that the Empower Bank services and administration are tailor-made for those who have for long been marginalised and unbanked by the banking sector, who are in fact the ones contributing to the growth of a new economy.
We, therefore, have nominated to the board at least three youths, two females and one male, who have experience in business and the banking sector.
They will understand the challenges their peers in business face, specifically as they seek inclusion into and support from the banking sector.
The other members who are not youth have vast experience in banking and finance and will help anchor the Empower Bank as a strong competitor in the financial services sector.
OM: Some people have voiced concern over the appointment of Bona Chikore into the board. What special skills or qualifications does she bring to the board?
PZ: For Mrs Chikore, the due process was followed. As per the Prudential Standards No. 07-2014/BSD [Fitness & Probity Assessment Criteria], all her required documents were submitted to the RBZ who duly approved her appointment based on her qualifications and experience.
According to the standards, a “fit and proper person” is one who is of good character, competent, capable, honest, financially sound, reputable and reliable.
OM: What special skills or qualifications does she bring to the board? Zimbabweans have been demanding answers.
PZ: Is the concern a politically biased one, just because she is the daughter of the president of Zimbabwe who happens to be from Zanu PF? If so, no answer I give would reason with such politicised concerns.
Or are they real concerns about the qualifications and capacities of a young Zimbabwean woman?
Certainly, she must then be considered, like everyone else, according to her capacity and abilities to be entrusted with such a position. What has she achieved as a youth, a young woman?
She pursued her education in the finance sector to the level of a degree and masters.
She also has experience in business, having helped run a commercial business, that is GushungoDairy.
She has also started her own business. So why can she not be considered, does she not have much she can offer to her Zimbabwean peers who are to benefit from the Empower Bank?
Most importantly, her nomination has followed the same due process required by RBZ, which considers her qualifications and experience.
It also considers whether she is of good character, competent, capable, honest, financially sound, reputable and reliable. Bona Chikore is certainly a young Zimbabwean woman who is all these things.
OM: What is your reaction to accusations that her appointment amounted to nepotism as the president is expected to approve the board?
PZ: There is no nepotism. She fits into the criteria used by the RBZ to weigh and approve such nominations, so why should she not serve her country and its people as any other youth should?
She is one among the three young people nominated to represent their peers, to open doors and ensure greater access to opportunities for the youth.
Surely, she is like the other young people I have nominated to Empower Bank and Nieeb. Those two boards alone will have a third of youth representation, eight out of 22. With five being young wome, the quality of these young people makes them assets to the youth empowerment agenda.
OM: What was Mugabe’s role in the appointment of the Empower Bank board?
PZ: President Mugabe’s role was appointing me as minister and as minister I should do my work. I am not “chituta” [fool] which goes back to the president to say “chef, what must I do”?
He gave that authority to me. It is the minister with guidance from his ministry that selects and appoints board members.
The president is consulted with a final list of nominated board members.
OM: Were you influenced by anyone to appoint Bona Chikore?
PZ: I was influenced by what she has to offer, what she has achieved as a Zimbabwean woman and a youth.
OM: What is your reaction to calls to reverse such appointments?
PZ: I don’t give in to pressure. I am not the type that gives in to pressure. I am not a coward that gives in to pressure. Pressure from whom? From zvituta zvevanhu [fools] who want to consider things on the basis that this person is related to this person. That is nonsensical.
The same argument that is being used for the pressure is that I must not consider someone because she is a relative. There is no pressure they will put.
OM: But would you consider reversing the appointment given the issues being raised by Zimbabweans?
PZ: Certainly not, why would I do that? Have these politically-biased concerns changed the fact of her qualifications, capabilities as a youth simply because a few with their political agenda are bitter?
Besides, are you saying then that the children of our political leaders are barred from participating in matters concerning their country, moreso when they are called to serve?
OM: What is your reaction to charges that you are trying to curry favour with the first family by appointing their daughter into a position that she does not deserve?
PZ: My reaction must be to laugh. It’s a ridiculous charge because she is a daughter of the president, does that exclude her?
If another minister appoints her then it’s about that minister trying to appease his or her boss. And if it’s me, then I am trying to please relatives.
Why must she be denied an opportunity which two other young people, Rudo Kumirai and William Chaitezvi, have been given on that board?
If I have competent relatives, I am not going to overlook them because I think she is the best person for that particular job and I have specific reasons for that.
She is running an enterprise and she has international experience and most importantly, there was a mix that I was looking for and she contributed towards that mix of experience and knowledge.
OM: You have been accused of being a member of the G-40 faction in Zanu PF fighting against Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. What are your views on the succession issue?
PZ: There is no such thing as G40. There never was. And I’m certainly not part of anything that doesn’t exist, or that is delusional rantings of charlatans seeking to fuel successionist politics and agendas whether in the media or by power-hungry politicians.
If I remember correctly, when Professor [Jonathan] Moyo some years back spoke about a generation of those below 40, he was speaking about the reality of Zimbabweans’ demographic dividend.
That dividend is young people. The whole of Africa is talking about that reality, how the youth must be harnessed and invested in for Zimbabwe’s future growth and prosperity.
Anyone who wants to politicise the reality of Zimbabwe’s future resting on those below 40 is a fool. And I have just turned 50 by the way, so I can never fit into that demography but can only work for it, to have it placed in the space it must be to grow Zimbabwe’s economy.
That is why my ministry must lead in placing capable youth into those spaces where they can make a change, such as on our boards.
OM: Will you support Mnangagwa’s ascendancy in the event that Mugabe steps down?
PZ: I, as will the rest of Zimbabwe, will support a leader who is democratically, freely and peacefully chosen by Zanu PF and by the people of Zimbabwe.
That person just happens to be His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Cde Robert Mugabe. To my knowledge, his party has said he is not stepping down and that he will represent them as their presidential candidate come a few months’ time in 2018.
They retain their confidence in him that he is most capable of retaining Zanu PF kuti ingotonga [to lead] and achieve their socio economic aspirations.
My position has been clear and it still remains clear even when I used to write the Zhuwao Brief and my view is that, this is not the time to talk about succession.
The issue of succession promulgated by those that are sure they do not have the requisite qualifications to actually take this country forward.
I am sure you heard the president during his interview on the occasion of his birthday and the majority of Zimbabweans do not see anyone who can succeed him.
Even myself, there is no one I can see who has the potential to succeed the president.
OM: You mean no one can succeed him? There has been talk that Mnangagwa is the heir apparent. Will you support him in the event that he is endorsed?
PZ: As I indicated before, I will not entertain that argument. A successionist conversation will only be held in five years’ time but in the meanwhile, people should do the jobs they were assigned and not do senseless things and start talking about succession.
OM: What can you say about those who are canvassing for support?
PZ: Those that are canvassing for support, they should know that they don’t have my support because they are doing the wrong things at the wrong time.
When the right time comes, I will look at the fact that they were doing the wrongs things.
This is likely going to influence me to then not support them because they have shown a propensity to do wrong things.