HARARE businessman and Zanu PF activist Agrippa Masiyakurima recently sparked a social media storm after posting extracts from an angry WhatsApp exchange with ICT minister Supa Mandiwanzira in which the latter appeared to be demanding $200,000.
The extracts Masiyakurima posted on Facebook did not indicate what the $200,000 was for, while the businessman also published an invoice he said proved the minister was trying to externalise $4 million NetOne cash to Mauritius.
The absence of the “scandal” in mainstream media further stoked the angst, with claims that the minister – a former journalist – had paid ex-colleagues to ignore the story. Either that or the media were simply incompetent, some suggested.
NewZimbabwe.com managed to secure the full WhatsApp exchange between Mandiwanzira and Masiyakurima – or, at least, a more detailed version of it.
We also spoke to both adversaries Monday night and they confirmed that the conversation took place in January this year.
Our separate interviews with them established that there was no disagreement regarding the basic facts to their dispute.
It is in the atmospherics where differences emerge. The full WhatsApp exchanges indicate that:
- Masiyakurima bought, on credit, a crane from a company associated with Mandiwanzira for $400,000
- Masiyakurima was supposed to pay for the crane by September/October 2015
- Masiyakurira failed to pay by the agreed deadline, prompting the minister to demand fulfilment of contract terms.
- Masiyakurima then managed to pay $200,000 in January.
- Masiyakurima paid the balance, with interest, some ten days later during the same month.
Now, if this WhatsApp row took place in January and the dispute was resolved with Masiyakurima paying up what he owed, why is he making the affair public now? More on this later.
First, what they both said regarding their business deal. On the record, Minister Mandiwanzira, said he was not interested in wasting time on baseless allegations from an individual “sick in both body and mind”.
He however, promised that Masiyakurima and his political backers would get a lawsuit they won’t be “able to contain”.
For his part, Masiyakurima told NewZimbabwe.com that he bought a crane from the minister’s company (Mandiwanzira denied owning the firm) for $400,000, promising to pay by the end of September.
“My accounts were frozen by Zimra at the time and my company was being garnished over a tax issue. But I gave Supa title deeds to one of my properties and an agreement of sale as security,” he said.
“I had secured a contract to build base stations for NetOne and I assured Supa that I would pay him once the Chinese had paid me. NetOne even gave him a guarantee that he would be paid.”
We asked Masiyakurima why NetOne would get themselves involved in his dispute which had nothing to do with the parastatal.
“The work I was doing, and for which I had bought the crane from Supa, was for NetOne and the company did not want their project to be adversely affected and likely slowed down,” he explained.
“We were paid for our work in December (2014) and Zimra got its money as a result of which the freeze on our accounts was lifted. Supa, somehow, got information from our bankers that we had been paid and started demanding his money.
“That is why I had to give him a break-down of what we had done with the funds.”
Masiyakurima continued: “I managed to pay Supa $200,000 in January. But he still sent his mechanics to vandalise the crane while claiming to be carrying out maintenance work. Ten days later I paid him the $200,000 balance plus $11,000 he demanded as interest.”
So, if payment row was settled in January, why is the matter coming up now.
It turns out that there has been an audit at NetOne which has resulted in the suspension of chief executive Reward Kangai.
And one of the contracts red-flagged by the audit involves Masiyakurima.
Said NetOne board chairman, Alex Marufu, at a press conference in Harare Monday: “(Regarding) Bopela, which we understand is owned by Mr Agrippa Masiyakurima.
“Matters of interest include a deal to sell NetOne sim cards to 500,000 Zanu(PF) youths for which $80,000 was paid in advance.
“Of the 500,000 sim cards committed to, the actual number delivered was just under 3,000, which 3,000 was signed by NetOne staff at a weekend blitz at Zanu(PF) headquarters.”
Factions – again
However, Masiyakurima said there was nothing irregular about the deal and accused the minister of forcing the exit of Kangai for blocking his corrupt business deals with the state-owned mobile phone company.
In addition, there is also the problem of G40 and Lacoste rivalries.
“Supa and his Lacoste group have been after me for a long time because they think I’m funding the First Lady and G40,” Masiyakurima told NewZimbabwe.com
“Mandiwanzira has been attacking me using his radio station and the state media which is controlled by his Lacoste faction; so I decided to expose them on social media which they have no control over.
“They suspended Kangai in order to stop NetOne paying for the work I have done for the company. The thinking is that if I’m not paid then G40 has no money. But there is no faction called G40; we are supporting the president.
“Supa forced Zimra to freezing of my bank accounts thinking that would undermine the First Lady’s activities. He also demanded a 40 percent interest in my company but I refused.
“They hoped that if my accounts were frozen I would then lose the NetOne contract so they take it over.”
He added: “The problem for Supa is that he joined Lacoste in the mistaken belief that Gunshungo (President Robert Mugabe) is finished.
“Can you imagine that Supa ordered parastatals under his ministry to donate no more than $5,000 for the president’s birth day party and yet demanded that the same companies contribute $200,000 each to his own election victory party in Nyanga.
“Who does he think he is? He has forgotten who made him a minister. If he wants to sue me, tell him to bring it on!”
Mandiwanzira would not be drawn on these allegations in detail, saying he was not interested in wasting time on a back-and-forth with a “sick man”.
He was however, categorical about factionalism.
“I am loyal to President Robert Mugabe because my rise in both business and the politics has been as a result of him.
“Some people want me to support the President by paying homage to him indirectly through them. I can’t; I’m loyal to the President directly and not through third parties. Ini handiite zvemagroup.
“I have been made by his Excellency President Mugabe and everybody else in high echelons of Zimbabwe. I cannot be stupid not to know that. I’m fiercely loyal to the president. Anyone with evidence to contrary must bring it forward.”
But sources close the minister said the G40 faction is after his head for allegedly blocking their bid to gain control of Telecel through a local private equity firm.
“Some of these G40 politicians are using Masiyakurima to try and force a cabinet reshuffle on the bogus basis that the minister tried to externalise $4million,” the sources told us.
“The fact of the matter is that NetOne’s $200 million Chinese facility was seriously abused through overpricing of equipment with the company and the country prejudiced of over $100million.
“An international consultant to help recover the money and they would be paid on the basis of success. They would get 10% of whatever they managed to recover.
“So far they have recovered $30 million and the $3 million indicated in the invoice Masiyakurima is peddling is the consultants’ 10 percent fee.”