Deep Cartels (Part 4): Using black empowerment as a smokescreen

That’s the youth wing of the party. They used all available energy to be angry on behalf of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, or seemingly so. The political younglings strongly “warned” Wicknell Chivayo, the eater of the moment who needs no introduction, against mumbling the president’s name as he eats.

In the week that we have just left behind, the most interesting noise came from a pack of howlers in the ruling party, Zanu PF.

That’s the youth wing of the party. They used all available energy to be angry on behalf of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, or seemingly so. The political younglings strongly “warned” Wicknell Chivayo, the eater of the moment who needs no introduction, against mumbling the president’s name as he eats.

That was after Chivayo, a celebrated, unashamed tenderpreneur, was caught in leaked audios boasting that he now had the president under his firm control.

Not that there is anything new or surprising about that. We all know how President Mnangagwa is kowtowing to Chivayo, or something similar to that.

Here is the thing. The Zanu PF youth league leadership was clearly commandeered to make those utterances against Chivayo by someone.

Most probably the president himself whose track record in public relations is very poorly documented, assuming there is anything to document.

The younglings have always been used in the megaphone politics of eating.

In mid-2019, the youths flagged a long list of allegedly corrupt party individuals that included Tino Machakaire — who went on to be promoted to a cabinet minister — Chivayo, Obert Mpofu, now, instructively, the party secretary general, Jorum Gumbo, who went on to be appointed a presidential advisor for projects implementation, and Neville Mutsvangwa.

While Neville was caught and released recently, those that were named have actually earned higher recognition. It was about the politics of eating of those days, hardly anything else.

There is another dimension to the hollering by the youth league that we heard last week. One manner that Chivayo has been getting wrong at the table is his failure to share the meal with the onlookers who should surely be next in the pecking order.

For one reason or another, Chivayo has chosen vague characters to give the Aquas to. He has been dolling out the gifts to musicians, comedians and boom shakers and has tended to forget the real members of the party, the youths included.

If Chivayo had given those millions to the youth league members, you would be suffocating with carbon monoxide in the banquet room, I tell you.

But Chivayo has not been doing that, and that is a big mistake.

Give them an Aqua each and you will not hear a single thing from them unless they are told to grunt at the feeding pen for someone’s benefit.

That leads to the crux of the issue. The so-called economic empowerment.

 Take the Zec scandal in which Chivayo and his business accomplices milked some US$40 million in inflated prices for biometric voter registration materials ahead of last year’s elections as an example.

 It’s clear that the main players in this scam have been able to eat mostly because they claim to be standing for black economic empowerment.

You will recall that, two years ago, Mike Chimombe and Scott Sakupwanya broke away from the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) that is led by Phillip Chiyangwa and formed the Economic Empowerment Group (EEG).

Now, Chimombe and Sakupwanya are central actors in the Zec drama.

Sakupwanya used his more or less briefcase company, Better Brands Security, to bag the Zec contract for the supply of election materials in cahoots with a South African company, Ren-Form.

Better Brands has no history in such supplies, so it had to find a partner well-known for the job. Then, somehow, Chimombe and Chivayo stormed the feeding trough.

Thing is, Chimombe is the founding chairperson of EEG and Sakupwanya is a key figure in the outfit.

In fact, Sakupwanya, an obviously dishonourable member of Parliament, had been slated as the founding chair but, for strategic reasons, he opted to play less.

When the EEG was formed, it was very loud on how it was planning to ensure that no-one was left behind in its endeavor to bring economic emancipation to the indigenous people of Zimbabwe.

But, barely after the launch of the group, all that was forgotten. That’s why you see that only a few individuals are getting the government tenders.

Economic empowerment groups are never designed to benefit the majority in Zimbabwe and Africa. Instead, they are used to enable a few elite individuals to chow.

The EEG has a national appeal on paper, with top representation drawn from all the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe.

However, as it turns out, only Chimombe and Sakupwanya are eating. If the other members are present at the banquet, they are eating from the side dishes only.

As it usually happens with these cartels that hide behind the name of economic emancipation, club members use their proximity to power to get tenders and contracts.

That is why, as you will notice, the EEG at its formation was quick to announce that it would escalate the news of its formation to the highest office in the land.

In fact, the highest office already knew about the breakaway from Chiyangwa’s AAG.

That was also politically useful because the Zanu PF leadership—to read President  Emmerson Mnangagwa—needed an alternative to Chiyangwa, who had become incorrect because of his shifty political loyalties. The young pecking turks were going to be an asset because, being new entrants in the room, they would be malleable, unlike Chiyangwa who had become big-headed.

Have you ever wondered why Chiyangwa is pretty quiet these days, if he is not doing awkward skits on Tiktok?

He and his AAG have effectively been nudged out, and the EEG is now the political favourite. And Chivayo certainly looms in the background in this “black empowerment” scheme of things.

Granted, the relationship between the so-called champions of economic empowerment remains scrambled.

We don’t know how much they give to their godfathers when they get the tenders, for instance. And we don’t know if they are not runners for the godfathers. But, in the pecking order, we know that there are big guys who are getting 10% for each job that the tenderpreneurs are getting.

When the AAG was formed in 1994, its founders like Chiyangwa, the late Peter Pamire, Saviour Kasukuwere and Matson Hlalo claimed they had to represent black Zimbabweans who were being denied access to the cake. 

Nothing like that ever happened of course.

That’s why you see that it was only the likes of Chiyangwa, Pamire, Kasukuwere and Mutumwa Mawere who got filthy rich. They used the AAG to amass wealth.

The bottom line is that these economic empowerment clubs are not only used to feed those that lead them, but become an intricate part of the deep cartels used to siphon millions, if not billions, in the comfort of political patronage.

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

Related Topics