My conversation with Nyarota on Chihombori – Mawere

My attention was drawn to an article published on 21 September 2009 by Messrs. Geoffrey Nyarota and Ray Matikinye entitled: "World Bank, Chihombori and Mawere" making a number of allegations against me.

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The authors make the point that mystery surrounds the use of large sums of money that the World Bank allegedly paid to Ms. Chihombori without disclosing the source of the purported commercial and financial injury.

Firstly, the World Bank finances projects and not individuals as suggested in the article. Accordingly, it is not clear under what circumstances would the World Bank disburse any funds to an individual if there was no project for which the financing was sought.

The World Bank no doubt has its own processes for vetting projects and is competent to take action against any party that may have abused its funds in accordance with the applicable laws.

Secondly, is it not evident to the authors that at the very least they would have required someone from the World Bank to be be the voice of the complaint?

However, for unprofessional journalists ethics is no longer a virtue as the end normally justifies the means. What the journalists sought to do was to scandalize individuals in what should be a purely commercial matter.

Why my name was included in the article only God knows but it was evident from the outset that the approach was not only to single out Dr. Chihombori but to malign any source of residual support that she may still enjoy after the well-acknowledged hatchet job for reasons best known to the authors.

The authors present as truth and fact that they put together a story of intrigue and alleged gross self-enrichment on the part of Chihombori. It is not explained to the reader how she enriched herself and at whose expense.

It emerges from the article that the authors are, indeed, representing themselves as spokespersons for the World Bank and yet in the same article they do acknowledge that they did not receive any comment or response from the institution before going to the press.

The authors as expected then present myself and Zimbabwe’s Defence Minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as prominent players in Chihombori’s so-called story.

In particular mention is made of the fact that questions were posed to me and my failure to respond to such questions can be read to mean that there is indeed a story or scandal to uncover.

It is true that questions whose context and content can hardly be considered to emanate from anyone who had done his research on the subject matter.

It is often said that one must avoid arguing with a fool as people may not notice the difference. This is one such case where people are pursuing a non story. What is it that Mr. Nyarota hopes to achieve by this kind of journalism? I have yet to understand the kind of mind that informs this toxicity.

Ordinarily one would not need the input of the accused to sustain allegations that have substance. In this case, clearly the adage that one is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty is waived by people who want to be taken seriously as journalists.

It is common cause that the said Torwood Hospital and Redcliff Medical Centre was owned by Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCO) and was sold in the ordinary course of business on a willing buyer willing seller basis otherwise Zisco would be the source of this malicious story.

The authors then correctly identify a corporate entity, Bell Family Medical Center (BMC), as the purchaser of the assets from Zisco. The fact that the assets were purchased by an entity that may be connected to Dr. Chihombori is not in dispute.

It is then stated that after the acquisition, a project was then presented to IFC, the World Bank’s private sector arm, for financing.

Such financing was provided to the project but what the authors seem to suggest is that the funds provided by IFC were not used for the intended purposes. This being the alleged case, a suggestion is then made that Hon. Mnangagwa and I were involved in the alleged abuse of funds.

At the very least, the authors would have needed to establish whether in truth and fact, I was connected with BMC.

To my knowledge there is no direct or indirect connection with me and I challenge the authors to expose such connection.

One would expect that shareholding information would be available as are company statutory documents to give direction to any serious journalist investigating a story of this nature.

The authors seem to have the information on the project that IFC allegedly helped to finance.

They state in the article that: "The total cost of the ambitious expansion project was US$1.61 million and IFC was requested to provide quasi-equity of US$750 000. IFC approved funding for BMC on June 30, 1999 under Project 9586. The funds were released on August 2, 2000."

Surely if they know the project details they would also have known who was instrumental in getting the project financed as at the material time Dr. Chihombori was not as controversial as she is now being projected.

She only became notorious as the story suggests when she made the mistake of confirming that she was related to the Prime Minister and more importantly walking side by side with the Prime Minister at the inauguration of President Zuma. Had she not made this fatal error then she would have remained a private person other than also accepting to be allocated a farm under the land reform program.

A case is then made that projected expansion of the facilities was not made and, therefore, this is used to confirm that funds were abused and by some strange coincidence I was implicated in this.

A statement to the effect that: “The hospital at Torwood shows evidence of dereliction, the extent of which could not have occurred in the past ten years. The building itself is run down as are its environs. Such state of dereliction could not have happened only in 10 years.”

Any rational mind would know the conditions under which the Zimbabwean economy has been operating over the last 10 years and the impact on business performance as would anyone familiar with the recent history of Zisco and the optimism at the material time about the future of the Zimbabwean economy.

The authors correctly recorded the fact that Dr. Madavo, former Vice President of the World Bank, who attended a meeting that Africa Resources Limited (ARL) hosted in Washington DC in 1997 was bullish about investment prospects in Zimbabwe. Yes, Dr. Chihombori did commit to investing in the country.

What is evident from the story is that she did invest as promised. In fact, the facilities were purchased from Zisco according to the story and transfer of title to BMC was effected allowing for BMC to then approach the IFC.

What many had not anticipated at the time is that Zimbabwe would go through a period of political and economic madness.

To suggest that we were responsible for the economic crisis that also affected projects like the BMC sponsored one is to miss the point. We are talking about the Zimbabwe that we are all familiar with.

A point is made that I rushed in defense of Dr. Chihombori at the height of the media furor over Chihombori’s attempted take-over of De Rus Farm in Chegutu back in June, following publication of articles by Mr. Nyarota in which my name was brought into the story in a defamatory manner.

What was I expected to do when my name is brought into disrepute by irresponsible and unaccountable type of journalism?

To Mr. Nyarota, I must not enjoy the right of self defense. He says that I emerged from the blue and rushed to her rescue forgetting that it was he would brought me into the fray for reasons best known to himself.

I am then accused of failing to say exactly how Chihombori had invested the money that I did mention in my article as if to suggest that private investors have a duty to disclose to the general public about their investments.

What is clear is that Mr. Nyarota did not expect me to respond so that he gets the last word as his is accustomed to.

It seems that my crime was to state accurately how I met Dr. Chihombori and my knowledge of her as a person and more importantly as a person who can walk the talk.

Even according to Mr. Nyarota’s version, the purchase of the clinic was made and if Dr. Chihombori was not a serious person she would not have followed up on the investment in Zimbabwe choosing to remain focused on the USA where she was domiciled.

The authors of the article state as fact that: "Mawere assumed South African citizenship in 2006 after he fell out with the government of President Robert Mugabe. He once enjoyed the patronage of both Zanu-PF and government through the powerful and wealthy then Minister of Justice, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa was also Zanu-PF’s secretary for finance."

What may not be clear to Mr. Nyarota is that SMM was expropriated in 2004. As such, how could I have taken citizenship in 2006? If I was a fugitive from justice as is suggested in the article, I would hardly have been a candidate for citizenship in South Africa.

The truth of the matter is that I naturalized as a citizen of South Africa prior to expropriation of my companies. In fact, Mr. Nyarota was a guest at my house in South Africa. My Nyarota would be aware that I have not changed my residence for the last 14 years.

It is the stated that: "Mawere’s fallout with ZANU-PF government followed the expropriation by government of his SMM Holdings after the State specified him under the Prevention of Corruption Act in 2004" as if SMM was expropriated by a political party and not by the government of the day.

It is not explained how such a fallout manifested itself when it is common cause that a number of individuals were also specified at the same time.

The authors would no doubt be aware that even the Meikles institutions were also specified as well as Mr. Moxon.

To Mr. Nyarota one can only be specified if there is a fallout instead of dealing with the real issues about the state of play in respect of the rule of law and respect for human and property rights.

My case is one such that can be used as a case study. However, with the kind of mind that informs Mr. Nyarota’s thinking human rights abuses can only be authentic is they are targeted at white people.

To him, our rights are consequential and, therefore, perishable.

Another point is then made that: "Mawere has fervently denied the publicly held view that his SMM Holdings was acquired through a government guarantee or that Mnangagwa was involved in the transaction" when no proof is provided in the article that SMM was acquired using a government guarantee.

If this was the case then surely there is nothing to deny as they facts will speak for themselves. In fact, the seller of SMM would be the first one to confirm this material fact and agreements would no doubt be available to substantiate such a baseless allegations.

SMM was acquired in 1996 and the records are available in the numerous litigations that have been instituted as a consequence of the government of Zimbabwe’s actions to expropriate the company.

The government has not made any allegation that a guarantee was used to purchase SMM rather what the government sought to argue in the UK through a nominee company, AMG Global Nominees (Pvt) Limited, was that ARL had defaulted in making payments for the purchase price and, therefore, AMG should takeover the rights of ARL. The application failed and if Mr. Nyarota was genuinely interested in the truth he would be the first one to do his research and make informed comments about matters of national interest.

What Mr. Nyarota hopes to achieve by this kind of gutter journalism can only be answered by him. He makes the point that his readers were outraged by my response in self defense.

I do hope that you will have the courage to publish my response so that readers can made their own conclusions about our respective state of minds.