By Gift Phiri
Businessman James Makamba, who ended 12 years of self-imposed exile four months ago, has been exposed for plotting to bring down Information Communication Technologies (ICT) and Cyber Security minister Supa Mandiwanzira through a coordinated media campaign.
A leaked audio recording circulating on social media suggests that although Makamba owes his return to Zimbabwe after over a decade in exile to the advent of a new dispensation, he is bitter with President Emmerson Mnangagwa for allegedly failing to assist him regain control of mobile telecommunications firm, Telecel Zimbabwe.
He is particularly unhappy because he believes he helped breathe confidence in the new political dispensation by heeding the call by Mnangagwa for exiled businesspersons to return home and help rebuild the country.
Makamba is also livid with Mandiwanzira for orchestrating his loss of effective control of mobile cellular operator — Telecel Zimbabwe — during his 12-year-long absence.
Makamba is heard in the damning two-hour audio recording strategising how best to bring down Mandiwanzira and some business leaders, among them banker Ozias Bvute, who is also chairperson of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.
The recording exposes Makamba attempting to recruit former Star FM current affairs presenter Acie Lumumba, but the blogger rejects his offer of a down-payment of R4 000.
In the recording, Makamba attempts to lure Lumumba to discredit and rubbish the government, and says the first target must be Mandiwanzira, who was unavailable for comment amid reports he was busy with constituency work.
He then suggests names of seasoned journalists (names withheld) who could effectively undertake the assignment.
Makamba was not taking calls from the Daily News yesterday, and did not respond to messages sent on his mobile.
Makamba does not hide his disappointment at Mnangagwa for allegedly not assisting him regain control of Telecel Zimbabwe.
“In the same manner that Mugabe directed Supa to acquire the 60 percent, I strongly believe the President (Mnangagwa) should have gone to Cabinet and said we all know, we were all here when (former) President Mugabe told us that he has instructed the minister to acquire the 60 percent which was paid for in the following manner.
“We all know Cde Makamba has come back and he was not given the first right of refusal which is common practice in law, therefore, we are offering the opportunity to refund, not to buy, to refund whatever government money was paid to Telecel International so that he can have 60 percent. It’s known that Telecel its Makamba’s company, despite everything that has happened,” Makamba is recorded saying.
He is heard saying he helped breathe confidence in the new political dispensation by coming back home.
“In the same manner Supa was directed he should direct him just to reverse and let Makamba have his shares. After all, this was the first person to show confidence to say the president is saying Zimbabweans come back, Zimbabwe is open to business at great risk to him,” he further says.
The former broadcaster is then heard urging extensive propaganda against Mandiwanzira to ensure he is fired before elections.
Makamba suggests to Lumumba which content to push on social media that would effectively discredit the ICT minister and fast track his political downfall.
He is also heard bad mouthing Vice President (Retired General) Constantino Chiwenga and his wife Marry Chiwenga.
“These guys need an exposè but in a smart way, Ok,” Makamba says. “Because there is the general on the other side nepfuti dzake (with his guns) and his wife.”
Then Makamba’s associate comes in, suggesting there was an urgent need to start the disinformation campaign adding: “Nyoka inorohwa musoro wayo and musorowenyoka iyi ndiSupa (you strike the snake right on the head and in this case the snake is Supa). We need to have Mnangagwa dismissing him. The problem is that he is being protected by Chiwenga but we must just go after him,” the recording says.
The associate then breathes fire against Mandiwanzira, alleging he facilitated the purchase of shares for the government in Telecel from Russian firm Vimplecom.
Makamba also revealed he will lobby some powerful parliamentarians. Names of journalists are then bandied around by Makamba, and he suggested paying an initial $200 to each of the scribes (names withheld) as down payment.
He is also recorded suggesting former Zanu PF secretary for the commissariat Saviour Kasukuwere and Chiwenga were related, adding the former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander allowed Kasukuwere’s young brother, Danny, to return to Zimbabwe on the basis of the alleged relationship.
“The General asked why Danny fled the country,” Makamba is heard saying. “He said he must come back.”
Makamba has been engaged in mortal combat with his former lawyer Gerald Mlotshwa for control of Telecel. Mlotshwa is also Mnangagwa’s son-in-law.
He is keen to win back his stake in the Empowerment Corporation (EC) which was bought by Mlotshwa. The EC, a group of local investors, owns 40 percent of Telecel.
Makamba has been arguing that Mlotshwa abused trust reposed in him as his proxy to buy his shares.
Government — through its wholly-owned Internet service provider ZARNnet — took effective control of the country’s third mobile operator Telecel Zimbabwe in which Telecel International had a 60 percent shareholding.
A former Zanu PF central committee member and Member of Parliament, Makamba fled Zimbabwe in 2005 after being charged with illegally moving £3,7 million, $2,1 million and R15 million into offshore accounts on separate occasions.
The wealthy businessperson, whose interests include telecommunications, mining, retail, broadcasting and consulting, has also been forced to deny widespread allegations that he was forced into self-imposed exile because he was having an extramarital affair with former first lady, Grace Mugabe, insisting that they were “just business partners.”
He has just won the right to contest primary elections to represent Zanu PF in Mt Darwin South where he is facing 19 other ruling party candidates. DailyNews