Wicknell released

HARARE - Controversial and high-flying Harare businessman Wicknell Chivayo is reportedly back home following his "arrest" at the crack of dawn at his home on Monday, the Daily News can report.

Zimbabwe's military had reportedly detained the flashy Harare businessman after a dawn raid on his Harare home, almost a month after seizing power in an attempt to root out criminals around former president Robert Mugabe.

Wicknell Chivayo

Wicknell Chivayo

It is not clear under what circumstances Chivayo was detained although word has it that his captors wanted to understand his role in electricity deals that saw him being advanced $5 million by power utility, Zesa holdings, before work commenced at one of the contentious projects.

It is not clear under what circumstances Chivayo was detained although word has it that his captors wanted to understand his role in electricity deals that saw him being advanced $5 million by power utility, Zesa Holdings, before work commenced at one of the contentious projects.

The military’s interest in the matter reportedly stems from a draft impeachment motion tabled in the National Assembly last month as the ruling Zanu PF party sought to put pressure on Mugabe to vacate office.

The draft accused Mugabe of being a “source of instability”, flouting the rule of law by refusing to hold to account former Energy ministerSamuel Undenge’s alleged scandal at Zesa Holdings, involving Chivayo, who was allegedly paid $5 million without proper procedures being followed.

“Further concerned that the president has not taken any meaningful steps to stem endemic corruption, which has become the country’s number one enemy like evidenced in the Zesa case where his cabinet minister approved the transfer of $5 million without following provisions laid down in the Public Finance Management Act therefore calls upon this House to cause the removal of the president from office in light of the above and that voting in the motion of no confidence in the president by secret ballot," the draft motion read. 

Mugabe subsequently resigned, abruptly halting the impeachment hearing that had begun against him, and drawing the curtain on his 37-year rule and sparking unrestrained celebrations in the nation’s streets.

Chivayo was also awarded a further $73 million for the refurbishment of the Harare Power Station, $163 million for the restoration of the Munyati Power Station, and $248 million for the Gairezi Power project by the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) — a subsidiary of Zesa Holdings.

ZPC senior management stands accused of advancing $5 million to Chivayo for the Gwanda Solar project’s pre-commencement works, despite him not providing a performance guarantee as required by law.

Zesa Holdings chief executive officer Josh Chifamba has said the power utility’s board would meet this week to deliberate on Chivayo’s projects.

However, he refused to be drawn into whether Chivayo would be asked to return the $5 million he was given, insisting that the Zesa board would make its position known on the matter after its meeting.

On the other hand, Parliament has said that it is gathering facts on Chivayo’s project before making a determination.

“We would want to investigate if proper procedure was followed. So, we will not rush to allege. If any procedure, standards and corporate governance issues were violated, then we will take it from there,” the chairperson of the Energy portfolio committee, Daniel Shumba, said on Friday. 

Chivayo’s lawyer, advocate Thabani Mpofu, yesterday claimed his client was never arrested. The respected advocate was said to have been put under “withering pressure.”

“The correct position is that Mr Chivayo is and has at all material times been enjoying his personal liberty, no basis ever having existed for him to have a brush with the law,” he told the Daily News yesterday.

“Indeed, all the media houses understood that inexorable and ineluctable fact, little wonder they did not run with the story.

“I wish to make it abundantly clear that Mr Chivayo is a law abiding citizen who views the law as an instrument of development, progression, empowerment, emancipation and has complete and desperate regard and respect for it.

“In his business dealings he will continue to carry himself with decorum, deportment and dignity and is too anxious to play his part in the advancement of the republic’s economic interests and fortunes in line with the on-going national democratic and economic project,” said Mpofu.

In a video posted on social media a few days after Mugabe tendered his resignation, Chivayo bragged that he was one of the lucky few who had access to the former first family.

“Anga asingafariri VaMugabe ndiani? Mese maitorota kuti tingasvikesei pana VaMugabe, tingasvike sei pana First Lady? But isusu we were the lucky ones taisvika ipapo. Handiti ndivo vaiva First Lady, handiti ndiye anga ari President (Who didn’t want to have access to the former first family? You were all continually dreaming about how to get to the former president and first lady. I was among the lucky ones who had access to the former first family),” said Chivayo on the 30-minute-long video.

Chivayo, who is infamous for flaunting his wealth on social media, however, denied that Grace helped him secure a tender for the $200 million Gwanda Solar Project.

“Tender iyi ndakaihwina. Ndakatonyorerwa tsamba (I fairly won the tender )…My partners are from China…they have assets worth $30 billion and they make a turnover of $12 to $15 billion a year but nobody wants to understand that …kungoti Chivayo akabhadhara,kungoti ndiGrace, Grace ndiye aimupa (People unfairly claim that Grace influenced thetender process in my favour).

“Grace was the First Lady ka. Ndiani anga asingadi kusvika ipapo? Mese maitorota kuti toitasei kuti tisvikewo apo. Saka isu we were blessed,” he said.

The colourful character also poured cold water on claims that he was the former first family’s “runner.” “Wanga uri runner waMugabe… inini kuita runner? But iwe haudi kuita runner waPresident? Nditori neshungu kuti dai ndaiva runner wavo but ndanga ndisiri (I was never a runner for the president even though I would have cherished being one),” said Chivayo, adding that he has since shifted his allegiance to the new Zimbabwean Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“Right now totaura kuti Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa pamberi navo. Chandisingaiti kutaura kuti MDC, kuMDC kwenyu uko handiuyi. (I am now firmly behind Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa. What  I will never do is to support the MDC).

“But Zanu PF is a family affair kana takanganisirana ndinongonoapologiser maida kuti ndiite sei? Zanu PF is my party. If I do something wrong I will apologise,” said the socialite.

As a businessman, the controversial socialite said it was in his interests to align himself with the ruling party.

“Isusu takangwara. We support the winner; we support the ruling party, that’s simple. We don’t involve ourselves in politics, this faction or this and that because we are business people,” he said.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba was unreachable for comment as her mobile phone was unreachable.

Efforts to also obtain a comment from the military were also futile right up to the time of going to Press.

Chivayo told the Daily News unequivocally in an interview this weekend that he would not be returning the $5 million in dispute — blaming a lack of funds on the part of Zesa for delays in the commencement of works at his Gwanda site.

“There is a contract and there is no need to return the money, but to complete the project. This is a multi-million dollar project and I have to do the job, and right now there are people on the ground.

“The $5 million is only for the pre-commencement works. The delay of the project is the issue of funding, but work on the ground will be complete in three weeks.

“I stand guided by obligations in the contract, not any speculation and wishful thinking from the media,” a defiant Chivayo told our sister paper, the Daily News On Sunday.

The flashy businessman often sets tongues wagging with Facebook posts of his expensive apparel,something that he does not make apologies about.

Chivayo, who once served a jail term for fraud, has also in the past been pictured with former president Robert Mugabe in his offices, as well as with his then powerful wife Grace and son Robert Junior while on holiday in Dubai.