Former NetOne CEO and Whistlebrower Reward Kangai has opened a can of worms on some alleged misuse of office and corruption charges against the ICT and Cyber Security Minister Supa Mandiwanzira. These charges have even gotten the attention of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) who are currently investigating him but the big question is if these investigations will yield any positive results in promoting transparency, integrity and accountability, much more public confidence on this new Government led by E.D Mnangangwa.

Zimbabwe’s post independence era is characterized by a political leadership that has consistently failed to provide the best examples for accountability, transparency and integrity. The leadership itself, has since the 1980s, engaged in acts of corruption and also condoned such acts on the part of their associates, relatives and friends. This has frustrated efforts towards building a corruption-free Zimbabwe. Last year Former President Robert Mugabe blocked the arrest of current fugitive and former Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Jonathan Moyo (despite that he had actually admitted to the charges) by Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) officers who were investigating him in connection with fraud involving the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef). Moyo was accused of benefiting from close to US$270 000 which was corruptly syphoned out of Zimdef by Ministry and fund officials.

There has been the involvement of the leadership, their associates, relatives and friends in corruption. Classic examples of corruption that tainted the Zimbabwean leadership include: Grace Mugabe’s PhD from University of Zimbabwe, the missing 15Billion, the Diamond Scandals, the looting of the War Victims Compensation Fund, the VIP Housing Scam, the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCO) Scandal, the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) Scandal, the Kondozi Estate Looting, the Willowvale Scandal, the Fertiliser Scandal, the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) Scandal, and the Harare Airport Extension Scandal to name but a few.

Today, what’s trending is that the ICT and Cyber Security Minister Supa Mandiwanzira is currently under investigation by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. This is because of the report made by former NetOne CEO Reward Kangai alleging corruption and abuse of office on the ICT Minister’s part. In 2016, Supa Mandiwanzira was once again accused of purchasing a personal car worth $195 000 using loans from the telecommunications regulatory authority, POTRAZ, without approvals from the Finance Ministry.

Reward Kangai’s report raises a lot of questions and points attention to some coincidences which are hard to ignore. In his account MetBank and its CEO, Ozias Bvute feature heavily in the story he calls ‘The Birth and Growth of a Cartel in the ICT sector in Zimbabwe.’

By ICT sector, Kangai means POTRAZ, NetOne, TelOne and Telecel, all organisations under the Ministry of Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security which Supa Mandiwanzira heads.

Now hold on, what does Metbank have to do with Mandiwanzira building a cartel in the ICT sector? Kangai paints a picture with verifiable facts that are interesting. It does not appear like Mandiwanzira has a direct interest in Metbank but the facts seem to suggest that he is connected to the bank.

At the very least it seems like Mandiwanzira really thought Metbank executives were so good at their jobs he hired quite a number of them to various organisations under his ministry, chiefly NetOne and POTRAZ. Let’s look at the individuals connected to Metbank that were appointed to various positions in ‘the ICT sector’ by Mandiwanzira.

Companies like Econet Wireless have long complained that POTRAZ has actively contributed to the creation of an unlevel playing field and POTRAZ has, all the time, denied this, but there you have it for yourselves.

Peter Chingoka – the current NetOne chairman is actually still a non-executive director at Metbank. He was appointed director at NetOne by Mandiwanzira and later took on the role of Chairman when Alex Marufu vacated the post.

Sibusisiwe Ndhlovu – the current Chief Financial Officer at NetOne left her post as a director at Metbank to join the telecoms parastatal. Appointed by Mandiwanzira.

Ozias Bvute

The big one. Bvute is the current CEO of Metbank and was appointed chairman of  POTRAZ, the telecoms regulatory authority, by Mandiwanzira. He still holds the two positions.

When Bvute was appointed POTRAZ chairman, Metbank, the bank he heads as CEO owed POTRAZ $6.5 million. You could try to convince me that this does not count as conflict of interest but I would like to hear all what you have to say on the matter.

Metbank also owed various other parastatals. They owed NetOne $300,000 [which had been reduced from $700,000 following legal action by Kangai who was CEO at the time as Kangai himself claims.] Zimpost was owed an unknown amount by the bank too.

As Kangai points out, both NetOne and Zimpost are all regulated by POTRAZ. So at the time when Metbank’s CEO was appointed chairman of the regulator POTRAZ, his bank owed the regulator itself and two of the organisations it regulates.

Metbank also owed other parastatals not under POTRAZ, POSB was owed $2m and Communications and Allied Industries Pension Fund (CAIPF) was owed US$1.6million when the Metbank CEO Bvute was appointed POTRAZ chairman.

It is public record that Bvute reinstated Alfred Marisa to his position as Deputy Director General at POTRAZ. Why had Marisa left his position? Then chairman Chikwenhere just said Marisa had left in an amicable manner which baffled many at the time.

Kangai claims Marisa had been fired for violating a board resolution which limited the amount POTRAZ could bank with Metbank to $500,000. If the limit was $500,000 it means Marisa exceeded that limit by $6m because when Bvute was appointed POTRAZ chairman, Metbank owed $6.5m. We have not verified this but if it’s true it is quite the revelation.

It would mean the Metbank CEO was appointed POTRAZ chairman and then he reinstated a director who had been fired for banking more money with Metbank than what the board had resolved was the limit.

Crowhill

Kangai alleges that Bvute instructed POTRAZ to purchase Crowhill stands worth $22.5m and that POTRAZ would only pay $16m, that is $22.5m less the $6.5m that was already owed by Metbank.

That deal if true is significant because Bvute owns Crowhill Farm which was subdivided into 4000 stands. Bvute won a High Court case which established him as the owner of Crowhill land in January 2015 and was only appointed POTRAZ chairman in April 2016. So essentially he was telling POTRAZ to buy stands from himself.

Bvute probably sold some of the his Crowhill stands to Metbank. The bank then used 85 of those stands as settlement of the $5m it owed Zimdef. It was reported that Zimdef lost millions in that barter deal as the stands were grossly overvalued.

It gets worse, Crowhill stands are developed by Tarcon (Pvt) Ltd. Mandiwanzira is known to be a shareholder in Tarcon.

Metbank

Just why the parastatals kept and keep on banking with Metbank is a mystery. The bank owes most of these parastatals millions. Kangai alleges they do this because of coercion even as he alleges that even some of the management at these parastatals were pressured to open accounts with the bank in their personal capacity.

Telecel is one such organisation which banked with Metbank and was unable to withdraw its funds when it needed them to pay its licence fees. Metbank could not release $6m which had been deposited with them by Telecel and cited liquidity constraints.

There is a theory as to why Metbank has survived despite all its scandals and huge debts. First, the CEO, Bvute is friendly with RBZ examination chief, Norman Mataruka. Which is why the RBZ  ratified Bvute’s appointment as CEO of the bank in the first place despite him not having any banking experience.

The chairman of Metbank, Wilson Manase is the lawyer who represented Grace Mugabe in her diamond ring case. So it seems there was some sort of connection between the bank’s founders and officials with the former president’s family. This is probably why the bank has survived and also why parastatals felt compelled to bank with them.

There you have it. Some facts and allegations that place Metbank and its CEO, Ozias Bvute at the centre of #SupaGate, the Supa Mandiwanzira corruption scandal. A real test to the new government to act on corruption not just by word but action. #MakeZimbabweGreatAgain