By Brian Chitemba
The Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) could have lost US$5,2 million in a murky deal which was supposed to see a ‘controversial third party’ earn a US$5 million kickback as a condition for a US$150 million loan from a local bank, fresh details show.
This startling revelation is contained in a hard-hitting letter dated 20 June 2019, written by suspended Zinara chief executive officer, Engineer Nancy Masiyiwa-Chamisa to the Special Anti-Corruption Unit in the Office of the President and Cabinet chair, Mr Tabani Mpofu.
Mr Mpofu confirmed receiving the dossier but declined to discuss its finer details.
“We referred the matter to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) for further investigations. Other Government institutions with a direct interest have also been notified,” he said.
The suspended Zinara boss declined to comment.
The fresh scandal comes against a backdrop of a US$70 million looting frenzy at the same parastatal, which was exposed by a Grant Thornton forensic audit report.
In a confidential document Eng Masiyiwa-Chamisa alleges being kicked out of the parastatal for resisting a scandalous deal which was going to prejudice Zinara of US$5,2 million.
She narrates that how a fortnight before her suspension she had written to the then Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Dr Jorum Gumbo objecting to the deal.
Dr Gumbo is now the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in charge of Implementation and Monitoring after being moved from the ministry last month.
Eng Masiyiwa-Chamisa claims that Zinara secured a US$150 million infrastructure loan from ZB Bank, on condition the parastatal entered into a consultancy agreement with Neo Africa – a South African based company.
Neo Africa was to be paid 3,5 percent of the total infrastructure loan, which translates to around US$5,2 million.
A background check on Neo Africa showed that the South African based firm, which specialises in security and VIP protection, exclusive car hire and chauffeur, IT and consulting services, was once implicated in a 2012 Corruption Watch report over a R3 million bribe scandal in a Johannesburg tender scandal.
Neo Africa bosses were recorded talking about R3 million bribe for South African public officials to influence the outcome of a tender bidding.
However, Eng Masiyiwa-Chamisa, in the US$150 million deal insists she; “resisted the recommendation on the basis that there was no justification of involvement for a third party in a contractual agreement between two parties, which is Zinara – the borrower – and ZB Bank, the lender,”
As the battle for the release of the US$5,2 million to the third party ensued, a meeting was then convened at the Transport and Infrastructural Development Ministry offices which was chaired by the then ministry Permanent Secretary Engineer George Mlilo.
The Neo Africa issue was tabled in the presence of ZB Bank representatives.
As pressure mounted for the deal to be signed off, the Zinara boss then wrote to Dr Gumbo outlining that the Neo Africa deal was unjustified as this was wanton abuse of public funds.
“However, two weeks after writing this letter, the board meeting… was convened and its outcome was my suspension from duty.
“In my view, my suspension was an act of corruption calculated to facilitate the Neo Africa deal or as a punishment for resisting it.”
The whistle-blowing dossier also alleges that Dr Gumbo could have interfered in the disciplinary cases against Messrs Precious Murove (human resources and administration director), Peter Boterere (administration manager), Simon Taranhike (finance manager) and Shadreck Matengabadza (finance manager).
The Zinara managers were suspended on 10 July 2017, on various allegations bordering on flouting of tender procedures.Dr Gumbo is said to have called for an urgent meeting to discuss the suspensions.
Prior to the meeting, the then acting board chair Mr Wilfred Ramwi wrote to the Zinara board citing weaknesses in the cases of the suspended executives.
The board then held two urgent meetings – on 4 and 18 August 2017 to discuss issues which had been raised by the then transport minister.
Responding to the allegations contained in the dossier yesterday, Dr Gumbo said the suspended Zinara boss was just looking for someone to blame.
“I don’t know anything about these issues. She is fighting someone who fought for her to get benefits while she is still on suspension because the board had repossessed all Zinara assets in her possession.
“What I know is that Zinara was looking for money locally to dualise roads and they approached ZB and Cabs banks.
“We then had a meeting at a local hotel where we were looking at how we could allocate roads for the dualisation projects. Unfortunately, she has picked me for a fight yet without a cause.”
The board invited the four managers to make presentations on their cases in the absence of the CEO who is an ex-officio board member.
Mr Ramwi wrote to Dr Gumbo, on 23 August 2017 recommending lifting of suspensions.
However, on 30 August 2017, the then permanent secretary in the parent ministry Ambassador Dr Machivenyika Mapuranga communicated to the then Zinara corporate secretary Mrs Mathlene Mujokoro expressing astonishment to the withdrawal of the case without his knowledge.
Amb Mapuranga’s letter reads; “I am even more astonished because you averred that a copy of the resolution was ‘requested by the office of the Honorable Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development’, for reasons I was not privy to. Nevertheless, the requested copy was not sent to the Honorable Minister’s office but to me. Since the letter was addressed to me, I take the liberty to comment on the resolution.
“It seems to me that ‘both criminal and labour cases’ had been instituted against the four employees because there were prima facie reasons for so doing.
“Now we are told that the cases have been withdrawn and we are not furnished with the reasons why this has been done. One would have expected such cases to run through the entire process to a definitive conclusion of guilty or not guilty.”
Eng Masiyiwa-Chamisa alleged that the four Zinara bosses could have been reinstated due to protection offered by Dr Gumbo.
Zinara board chair Engineer Michael Madanha could not comment yesterday as he was said to be busy.
He did not respond to question sent via SMS.
Engineer Mlilo told The Sunday Mail yesterday that his office resisted the payment of US$5,2 million to Neo Africa because procurement procedures were flouted.
“The task to raise funds was given to ZB bank through normal Government procedures. We resisted Neo Africa because the process of how the company came in and was selected, was not clear. Whether Eng Masiyiwa-Chamisa was fired over that, I don’t know,” he said.
The Zinara dossier also expose an alleged relationship between high-level Government officials, company executives and lawyers at Zinara.
“A point to note is that Retired Justice Chinhengo (who was supposed to chair Eng Masiyiwa-Chamisa hearing) is Mr Simon Taranhike, Zinara finance director’s brother-in-law and Advocate Thembinkosi Magwaliba is a nephew of former Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development Dr Jorum Gumbo and equally Magwaliba is an advocate hence he could not represent Zinara as its lawyer but he proceeded to act on behalf of Zinara despite this apparent conflict.”
Adv Magwaliba was engaged by Zinara to negotiate a severance package with Eng Masiyiwa-Chamisa, which she turned down.
The Zinara boss is on suspension over allegations of gross incompetence, abuse of authority and fraud over a CBZ bank loan.
Her lawyers, Mtetwa and Nyambirai denied the allegations against Eng Masiyiwa-Chamisa, saying the charges have no merit. The Sunday Mail