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How the Zec corrupt deal was secretly cobbled up

AS the fallout from the corrupt US$40 million Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) tender scandal widens, new details have emerged on how the deal was sewn up.




AS the fallout from the corrupt US$40 million Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) tender scandal widens, new details have emerged on how the deal was sewn up.

Fresh information shows the deal is worth more than twice that amount, all things put together.

The key players in the multimillion deal were Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba, chief electoral officer Utloile Silaigwana, chief procurement officer Robson Changachirere, businessmen Wicknell Chivayo, Moses Mpofu, Pedzai “Scott” Sakupwanya and Mike Chimombe, Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Director-General Isaac Moyo, Chief Secretary to Cabinet Martin Rushwaya, lawyer Everson Chatambudza, Ren-Form international sales executive Angus Carlaw and the company chief executive Thomas Michel du Sart.

Chigumba, working with people in the Office of the President and Cabinet, and CIO partly initiated the deal.

The Zec secretariat is headed by Silaigwana, the administrative and technical leader, as well as the accounting officer, who directly reports to the commission through Chigumba.

Zec has other departments that report directly to Silaigwana: finance, legal services, office of the secretary to the commission, internal audit and procurement management unit.

In this case, the most important section below Silaigwana was the procurement department headed by Changachirere.

However, Chigumba is the overall boss.

In the Office of the President and Cabinet, Chief Secretary Martin Rushwaya was key.
At CIO, Moyo was central.

Chivayo became the broker.

The NewsHawks, which broke the story, has more details showing Zec worked closely with Chivayo, Chimombe and Mpofu despite its attempt to distance itself from them.

Zec is now desperately trying to wriggle out through legal technicalities, saying it has no contract with Chivayo, Chimombe and Mpofu.

Details show Chivayo, Mpofu, Chimombe and Sakupwanya were brokers and agents of the deal. They only signed a contract with Ren-Form, a South African integrated digital communication and printing company, the supplier, as a partner, not Zec.

Zec also says the procurement process was followed to the letter and spirit. But facts show it was merely a formality.

The tender was given well ahead of the formal process, which was rendered an academic exercise.

The deal was sealed in February 2023 after Chigumba, accompanied by Chivayo and Mpofu, visited Ren-Form offices in Johannesburg located at the corner of Booysens and Trump streets in Selby suburb.

Yet the official procurement process which Zec refers to in its statements denying any wrongdoing only started in April, ending in June.

This was after the first invoice was raised in February and payment the following month, March.

In brief, this is what actually happened: Chivayo, who is close to Chigumba and Moyo, as well as President Emmerson Mnangagwa, secretly and corruptly secured a brokerage role in the tender between Zec and Ren-Form for the supply of election materials, including biometric voter registration kits and other things, by leveraging his close relationships and contacts with the high-profile officials.

For Chivayo, everything was perfectly set while he was in a good position to get the deal. 

He was close to Chigumba, Moyo, Rushwaya and, most importantly, Mnangagwa.

Unable to contain his excitement, Chivayo now says Mnangagwa is firmly under his vice-like grip.

State officials, the Zanu PF youth league and information department have reacted angrily to this claim.

Because he does not have the technical knowledge or know-how on elections, electoral matters and material supplies, Chivayo invited Mpofu, who has an information technology background and has dealt with Zec many times before, to be part of the deal.

Mpofu was involved in the 2018 elections and several others before going back to 2008. So his experience was valuable.

After securing his position, Mpofu then brought in his friend, Chimombe, as they always hunt for tenders and work together.

However, there was a problem: money.

In terms of the agreement between Ren-Form and Chivayo and others, each party was going to bear its own costs and expenses, including travel, preparation and submission of proposals, and all commitments and representations.

So enter gold baron Sakupwanya.

Because Chivayo and others had no money to fund their deal, Sakupwanya was roped in as the funder.

That is why Better Brands Security (Pvt) Ltd became the partner to Ren-Form, and signed the contract on 13 February 2023, 11 days after Chigumba, Chivayo and Mpofu had held Johannesburg meetings.

Chivayo did not have a cent at the time, although he wants to make it appear as if he always had money.

Prior to the Zec jackpot, Chivayo, who previously made money from state power utility Zesa tenders, was broke.

So Sakupwanya provided US$200 000 to fund the project.

Of this money, US$30 000, was used for flights for the delegation to meet Ren-Form in South Africa on 1 February 2023; US$80 000 for other costs and expenses and the US$90 000 balance to pay Chigumba’s overseas tuition fees and upkeep bills for her children.

In all this wheeling and dealing, Chigumba first held meetings with Chivayo, Mpofu and Chimombe, including at her home in Harare’s Greendale suburb. Eventually they travelled on 1 February 2023 to meet Ren-Form executives in Johannesburg to seal the deal.

Chigumba travelled with her aid and child to Johannesburg, together with Chivayo and Mpofu, for a meeting the following day, 2 February 2023.

Together with Chivayo and Mpofu, Chigumba stayed at the upmarket 5-star luxury DaVinci Hotel and Suites in Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton Mall.

Chimombe did not attend the meeting as he was on the campaign trail for Zanu PF ahead of the 23/24 August 2023 general elections.

Sakupwanya was also not there due to other business commitments.

That is why on the photos currently circulating on social media — which provide critical and undeniable evidence to show Zec is wilfully lying that it does not have any dealings with the brokers — Chimombe and Sakupwanya are not there.

There is only Chivayo and Mpofu on some photos and Chivayo, Mpofu and Carlaw on others.

So on two critical accounts — whether it worked with Chivayo, Chimombe and Mpofu, and also if the procurement process and procedures were followed — Zec has been caught out lying.

While it deceitfully denies links with them, Zec worked closely with Chivayo, Chimombe and Mpofu.

The legal procurement process and all relevant procedures were not followed when the tender was given because a semblance of that only came after the  agreement had been signed as a mere formality.

To ensure that everyone key was covered, one of Mnangagwa’s children — a lady named Chido Mnangagwa — was also brought in.

Chido is not prominent in public fora like her brothers, for instance Emmerson Jr and the twins, Sean and Collins, but she gave a brief interview to the South African Broadcasting Corporation during her father’s inauguration in 2018, saying:
“I’m very excited, we are so proud of our dad — he has done a great job.”

With his proximity to Mnangagwa and having brought in his daughter, Chivayo had the situation under control, also given his connections with Chigumba, Moyo and Rushwaya.

So when he brought on board Mpofu, Chimombe and Sakupwanya, the team was complete.

With agreements signed and behind-the-scenes arrangements in place, the jackpot had been hit.

What remained was receiving the money and enjoying.

Everything seemed okay until the money started coming.

The arrangement was that Ren-Form raised market-based invoices and Better Brands and its partners then added their commissions, fees and mark-ups.

Because Sakupwanya provided the initial funding, money was going to flow from Zimbabwe’s government or Treasury’s nostro account at CBZ Bank to Ren-Form through Standard Bank account number 002742659, Southdale branch.

From there, Ren-Form would transfer within 48 hours 66% of the money to Better Brands Security (Pty)’s FNB account number 63039713524, Sandton branch.

Realising the money would be effectively under Sakupwanya’s control as the owner of Better Brands Security (Pty) Ltd, a newly South African-registered company constituted for that purpose, Chivayo went to Ren-Form and changed the contract and bank details.

The signatories to the Ren-Form and Better Brands agreement were Du Sart for the supplier and Chatambudza for the partner.

Although the contract says it cannot be changed unless agreed by all parties involved, Chivayo went ahead and changed it, inserting his own company, Intratrek Zimbabwe, as the partner and subsequently changing the bank accounts.

This angered Mpofu and Chimombe, who tried to resolve the issue amicably in vain until the situation boiled and exploded.

The NewsHawks has been sniffing around for the issue since before the elections in August last year, so when things spun out of control, it was there to break the story.

Initially, Chivayo received the money just before the Easter holidays on 31 March and shared the proceeds. Details of this payment are contained in one of Chivayo’s revealing audios.

The US$1 million was split and distributed as follows: Sakupwanya (US$350 000); Chivayo (US$150 000); Mpofu (US$150 000), Chimombe (US$150 000); “Moms vaya” (Chigumba, US$100 000) and “DG” (CIO boss Moyo, US$100 000). This money was meant to ensure that the beneficiaries had good Easter holidays as bigger payments were subsequently coming.

Sakupwanya got more than others as he was also recovering his US$200 000 initial outlay that funded the deal in the process.

Effectively, he got US$150 000.

After that, many other payments followed, ranging from US$2 million up to US$8 million.

Rubber-stamping the tender

Zec’s credibility has plunged to a new low — hitting rock-bottom in the abyss of dishonour — as its officials scramble to contain the damaging fallout from the corrupt US$40 million tender scandal which has exploded with dramatic revelations and far-reaching consequences.

In a belated, after-thought, reaction, Zec says it has no contract with and did not secure any materials through three local businessmen Chivayo, Mpofu and Chimombe linked to the tender.

Zec also claims it followed procedures prescribed by law and engaged all relevant stakeholders through the Special Procurement Oversight Committee (Spoc), which includes the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz), in sourcing electoral materials for the elections from South African supplier, Ren-Form CC.

It also says it wrote to the ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on 16 February 2023 seeking assistance to identify potential suppliers through embassies.

Overall, Zec says it spent about US$21 million on items such as canvas tents, ballot paper, solar lights and indelible ink marking pens for the 2023 polls.

“The total amount that was spent on importing material for the elections including some donations was US$21 148 867. This includes materials like solar lights, tents, ballot papers and display kits for V11 forms,” Zec deputy chief elections officer  Simbarashe Tongai told the state-controlled weekly, The Sunday Mail.

According to Tongai, as reported by The Sunday Mail, Zec wrote to the ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on 16 February 2023 seeking assistance to identify potential suppliers through embassies.

The ministry responded five days later, indicating the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa had identified seven potential suppliers — Asset Protection Africa (Johannesburg); Uni Print (Durban); UV Equip (Midrand); Lithotech (Johannesburg); Forms Media Independent (Johannesburg); Novus Print (Cape Town); and Ren-Form CC, based in Johannesburg.

After a vetting process, three companies were shortlisted.

A team headed by Zec deputy chairperson Rodney Kiwa, which also included government printing experts from Printflow and Fidelity Printers, as well as a forensic scientist from police, subsequently travelled to South Africa between 16-21 April for a due diligence exercise.

They also roped in embassy officials.

Ren-Form emerged the “ideal supplier as it reportedly had the ability to provide all the required materials, unlike the two other shortlisted companies”.

As per procedure, the contract for procurement of the ballot paper and ink was submitted to Spoc, which includes Praz, on 8 May.

Four days later, on 12 May, Spoc approved the procurement.

After the elaborate process, the official narrative says, the election management body then submitted papers to Praz on June 22 for approval, which was granted on June 27.

Now as shown by documents and verification by The NewsHawks, the entire process described by Zec  happened after Ren-Form had already been secretly awarded the tender on 2 February 2023 after the meeting with Chigumba, Chivayo and Mpofu.

Ren-Form signed its contract with Better Brands on 13 February 2023, after agreeing with Zec as well. 

This is way before Zec started its official process, a mere formality.

Going through the motions and its dire consequences 

This practice is often referred to as going through the motions or rubber-stamping.

It can be detrimental to fair and competitive bidding processes.

As a result, it is essential to ensure that due process is followed genuinely, and bidding processes are transparent, fair, and merit-based to achieve the best outcomes.

Following due process in tender bidding as a mere formality, after the decision has already been made, is a problematic practice that can lead to:

*Lack of transparency and accountability;
*Unfair competition and manipulation of other bidders;
*Corruption and cronyism;
*Inefficient allocation of resources;
*Legal challenges and disputes;
*Erosion of public trust in institutions;
*Undermining of the integrity of the procurement process;
*Potential for fraud and abuse of power
*Waste of resources and time for unsuccessful bidders; and
*Reinforcement of entrenched interests and cronyism.

Cronyism: Buiness-political nexus

Corrupt businessmen may use their proximity to power to secure tenders through various unethical means, including:

*Cronyism: Exploiting personal relationships with government officials or politicians to influence decisions;
*Lobbying: Using connections to lobby for favourable treatment or legislation;
*Bribery: Offering bribes or kickbacks to officials in exchange for favourable treatment;
*Insider information: Using access to confidential information to gain an unfair advantage in the tender process;
*Revolving door policy: Hiring former government officials or politicians to leverage their connections openly or behind the scenes:
*Political donations: Making large donations to political campaigns or parties in exchange for patronage;
*Networking: Using social connections and exclusive clubs or organisations to build relationships with decision-makers;
*False credentials: Exaggerating or misrepresenting their qualifications or experience to secure tenders;
*Front companies: Creating shell companies or fake entities to bid on tenders and conceal their true interests.
*Illegal campaign financing: Funneling money into political campaigns in exchange for political favors.
*These corrupt practices undermine fair competition, perpetuate crony capitalism, and divert public resources away from essential services and legitimate businesses.

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