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ZEC tender scandal involved US$100 mln

By Agencies

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) tender scandal is far wider and deeper than initially thought:

It involves more than US$100 million in public funds looted through fraudulent and usurious pricing of electoral material supplies during last year’s flawed elections.

The various supplies to Zec were provided by South African company Ren-Form CC and its agents, including Better Brands Security (Pvt) Ltd, a local company.

Prices were inflated by up to 235%. Key players in the US$100 million deal were Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba, chief electoral officer Utloile Silaigwana, chief procurement officer Robson Changachirere, businessmen Wicknell ChivayoMoses Mpofu, Pedzai “Scott” Sakupwanya and Mike Chimombe, Central Intelligence Organisation Director-General Isaac Moyo, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Martin Rushwaya, lawyer Everson Chatambudza, Ren-Form international sales executive Angus Carlaw and the company chief executive Thomas Michel du Sart.

The initial dossier showed that the deal had a US$40 million component which was about supplying biometric voter registration (BVR) kits and other items.

But this tender was only for the supply, installation, training and support services  to meet Zec’s requirements, especially BVR kits as well as software to ensure registration and update of the voter management system ahead of the 2023 elections.

That cost US$40 million, delivered in two parts. This is the initial amount which The NewsHawks used when it broke the story.

The first total tranche under which various payments were made amounted to US$19 957 301. However, invoices and payments attached to the corruption dossier now publicly available amount to US$69 million. The US$40 million is part of the US$69 million cost.

The break down of the US$69 million comprises the following payments: 

US$5 731 979.50;

US$5 907 123.30;

US$5 992 334;

and US$4 513 218.

Besides this, there were other payments amounting to US$21 million for items such as canvas tents, ballot papers, solar lights and indelible ink marking pens for the elections.

Zec says money spent on importing material for the elections, including donations, was US$21 148 867.

This also entails materials like solar lights, tents, ballot paper and display kits for V11 forms.

However, documents show that the outlay on election materials included the US$69 million and US$21 million, bringing it to US$90 million.

But there were other transactions, for instance Zec’s order for 2 000 non-flushable toilets on the eve of the August 2023 elections at a cost of US$7.6 million.

The toilets, priced at an astronomical US$3 800 per unit when they retail for about US$300 in South Africa, were only delivered in April this year — eight months after the elections.

ZEC also splurged US$5 million on gadgets to display voting returns, digital V11 polling station forms, for last August’s election, but those devices, bought at inflated prices, were only delivered months after the polls.

This brings the total amount of the deal to more than US$100 million. In the 2023 national budget presented in November 2022, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube allocated ZW$76 billion (US$116 million at the time) for the elections.

Fresh information thus shows the deal is worth about five times the amount which Zec says it spent.

The main actors in the deal have not yet been held accountable, although Zec has been interviewed by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc).

Mpofu and Chimombe also surrendered themselves to Zacc, but were allowed to go without much ado.

Zacc says it is investigating the scandal, but its failure to swiftly deal with Chivayo has left it further discredited, with a massive reputational and credibility deficit.

Yet sources say Chivayo sent lawyers to Zacc after its chairperson Michael Reza said in public they were looking for him, and his former partners, Chimombe and Mpofu.

Chigumba, working with officials 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 brief, this is what actually happened:

Chivayo, who is close to Chigumba and Moyo, as well as 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 vicelike 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 RenForm 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.

This money — US$30 000 — was used for flights for the delegation to meet RenForm 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 Greendale home in Harare.

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 Pedzisayi “Scott” Sakupwanya Wicknell Chivayo 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 CIO director-general Isaac Moyo 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-thescenes 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 the Better Brands and its partners then put on 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, a newly registered South African 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, hivayo 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.

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$100 million tender 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 the 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 the 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 papers 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 22 June for approval, which was granted on 27 June.

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.

-Credit :NewsHawks

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