Mystery over ZECgate suspects’ whereabouts  


Mystery over ZECgate suspects whereabouts

Brenna Matendere

Harare—The lawyer representing Mike Chimombe and Moses Mpofu, two of the businessmen that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) is keen to interview in connection with alleged tender manipulation and fraud, has refused to divulge the duo’s whereabouts.

In an interview with NewsHub, the lawyer, Tapson Dzvetero of Antonio and Dzvetero Legal Practitioners, also revealed that ZACC had not yet formally approached his clients.

The anti-graft commission has indicated that it has gathered substantial information to build a case against Chimombe and Mpofu, even though the finer details of the allegations against the two are yet to be revealed.

However, audio and documentary leaks in recent days indicate a fallout between the two and another implicated businessman, Wicknell Chivayo, over a shady tender to supply biometric voter registration and other polling materials to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for the 2023 elections.

The leaks and media reports have shown that there was possible manipulation of tendering and contract procedures that also involved the reported inflating of prices by close to 250 percent.

Paper trail based on communication between Mpofu and Chimombe on one hand and REN-Form, a South African supplier, alleges that the latter unilaterally changed the terms of the contract to supply the election materials.

Mike Chimombe, a Zanu PF activist, enjoys a lavish lifestyle

The two allege that, under mysterious circumstances, REN-Form acted in cahoots with Chivayo—who is closely associated with President Emmerson Mnangagwa—to alter the contract, resulting in the latter receiving payments due to them.

They also alleged that REN-Form and Chivayo were involved in money laundering based on the payments made to them under deal with ZEC.

Estimated at some US$40 million, the tender to supply the polling materials was given to Better Brands Security and REN-Form as the contract partners by ZEC. Mpofu and Chimombe were investors in the Better Brands outfit that is owned by a ruling Zanu PF lawmaker, Scott Sakupwanya.

In a recent press statement, ZACC said the correspondence by Mpofu and Chimombe to REN-Form and an audio reportedly produced by Chivayo “raise issues of money laundering and abuse of office” that warranted an investigation by the commission.

The ZACC added that it was also keen to interview Chimombe and Mpofu regarding possible abuse of the presidential goats scheme as revealed in an audio leak.

Speaking to journalists at the swearing-in ceremony of High Court judges on Monday, ZACC chairperson, Michael Reza, said they had expected Chimombe, Mpofu and Chivayo to come forward for interviews following their press release.

Michael Reza

He warned that if they did not voluntarily appear at the ZACC offices or delayed doing so, further action—which he did not specify—to ensure their cooperation would be taken.

“We know they have their rights but we have our time limit. If they don’t come, we will go after them,” he said.

“We have collected facts and if everything goes according to plan, we will use these in court,” added Reza.

However, Dzvetero’s law firm on Tuesday formally notified ZACC that Chimombe and Mpofu were out of the country but promised maximum cooperation with the commission in its investigations.

When contacted by this publication, the lawyer refused to divulge where his clients had travelled to, the nature of their trips and when they would be back.

He insisted that lawyer-client confidentiality restricted him from revealing such details.

“We have very strict adherence to lawyer-client confidentiality and, therefore, I cannot disclose Mr Mpofu and Mr Chimombe’s travel arrangements and the country they are in at the moment.

“I am also unable to comment on anything about what ZACC wants to interview them about because we were not given formal papers about that. We will have to wait until my clients come back into the country and go to Zacc for the interviews,” he said.

It remains unclear when both Chimombe and Mpofu left Zimbabwe.

Suspects have been known in the past to cross borders to allow temperatures to cool down while negotiating their safety and protection with influential office holders.

Thandiwe Mlobane, a ZACC commissioner, declined to reveal how the commission would proceed with the matter following the letter from Dzvetero but acknowledged receiving it.

“Please refer to the letter from their lawyers which we confirm having received,” she told NewsHub.

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