Zimbabwe News

Wicknell Chivayo and Starlink internet service deal criticised

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to approve the licensing of SpaceX to provide internet services in Zimbabwe in partnership with controversial dealer and ex-convict Wicknell Chivayo has come under scrutiny.

On Saturday, Mnangagwa said he had approved Elon Musk’s SpaceX to introduce its Starlink internet services in Zimbabwe in partnership with Chivayo’s IMC Communications.

In a statement, Mnangagwa said that Starlink will provide the service in the country “through its sole and exclusive local partner IMC Communications.”

It has since emerged that IMC Communications, which has no known track record in telecommunications in Zimbabwe or anywhere in Africa, shared the same offices with Chivayo’s Intratrek Zimbabwe Pvt Ltd (53 Samora Machel Ave., Harare).

Intratrek, owned by Chivayo, has failed to implement the multimillion-dollar Gwanda Solar Project, and a recent visit by the Energy Parliamentary Portfolio Committee to the site of the proposed solar plant revealed that little progress has been made towards the construction of the 100-megawatt plant.

The Standard reported sources as saying IMC Communications was given the green light to partner with SpaceX only last week by the Ministry of Information Communication Technology and Courier Services.

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), which does the licensing, was reportedly left out of the whole process.

Speaking to The Standard, political analyst Maxwell Saungweme questioned how Chivayo’s company was selected without going to tender. He said:

This is not surprising. Zimbabwe has endemic corruption and proximity to the State House, which is all one needs to make it in the corruption minefield.

This is what bleeds this nation and the economy and unfortunately, there are no incentives for the regime to change course.

No one should be surprised by this given the proximity of Chivayo to the centre of power.

In recent months, Chivayo had been Mnangagwa’s guest at State House and attended several State events, where he relegated Vice President Kembo Mohadi to the periphery.

Chivayo was with Mnangagwa to welcome Kenyan President William Ruto for the official opening of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair last month in Bulawayo.

Transparency International Zimbabwe executive director Tafadzwa Chikumbu told The Standard that the Starlink deal has to be scrutinised. Said Chikumbu:

Every Zimbabwean has a right to tender in any procurement process in the country provided that it is done in line with the provision of the Public Procurement Act, which provides for procurement to be done in a fair, transparent and competitive process.

So any procurement that is done outside it is deemed invalid and should be subject to scrutiny.

Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) director Farai Maguwu, said:

We believe the selection process was done in the dead of the night. The deal is dodgy, especially given that it is awarded to a convicted criminal.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s biographer Eddie Cross recently described Chivayo as “a nasty, corrupt businessman.”

In January this year, POTRAZ warned individuals and companies caught distributing and advertising Starlink Internet Services’ gadgets that they would be arrested as the service hadn’t been licenced in the country.

The son of ZANU PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa and his wife Monica, who is the Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister, Neville, is languishing in remand prison following his arrest early this month for operating a Starlink satellite connection before the service was licensed.

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