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Scott Sakupwanya's flamboyant campaign under the spotlight

by Staff reporter
23 Jul 2023 at 08:12hrs | Views
A convoy of high-end vehicles led by police escorts snakes its way into Number One Grounds in Harare's Mabvuku  high density suburb on a late Thursday afternoon.

Brown dust rises as three Rolls Royces — two cullinans and a ghost, a G-wagon brabus and countless mint-looking SUVs grind to a halt.

"The Money Team (TMT)" delegation led by founder and American boxing legend Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr emerges from the fuel-guzzling machines amid momentary excitement from local residents.

This is Mayweather's Motherland Tour, an excursion sponsored by controversial local businessman and politician Scott Sakupwanya.

The visit, which ended last weekend, saw Mayweather conduct an open workout session in Mabvuku, a black tie event at a five-star hotel as well as meet and greet sessions with fans at top nightclubs in the city.

In 2021, Sakupwanya met Mayweather in Dubai where they first agreed that they would have this trip.

"I had promised them (Zimbabweans) the boxer and it had been two years, but today, he is here," Boss Scott, as Sakupwanya is referred to in these streets, told journalists.

The 46-year-old boxer boasts of a perfect 50-0 record in the ring and he officially retired in 2017.

He is worth over US$400 million and reportedly charges a minimum of US$500,000 for appearances such as this one.

In its entirety, online sources say, the cost of his Harare trip could have surpassed US$1 million after he flew in by private jet.

But, between the cool cash figures, befitting grand entrance and a beautiful history in the boxing world, Mabvuku residents questioned Sakupwanya's ‘gift'.

Enveloped by dust at the dilapidated venue, the relevance of Mayweather's trip to the archaic streets of one of the poorest high-density suburbs in the city where the famous gold dealer grew up- was lost in translation.

"We are happy about what boss Scott has done by bringing Mayweather to Harare, but we left older people at home who cannot attend such events at this ground," said Gabriel Niye, a local youth.

"He should be using this money to do door-to-door visits helping and addressing the real needs of  those in this community."

Had it not been for the free musical performances and exhibition bouts by local boxers, most in the measly attendance, like Niye, would still be wondering whether they could have spent their time doing something better.

In fact, judging from the measly attendance, the free entertainment frequently offered by the politicians is fast fizzling out as a drawcard.

"All I am appealing for is that they give me money to grow my small business," said backyard poultry farmer Bafowethu Sibanda.

Except for those that had access to the barricaded VIP area where Sakupwanya stood with the TMT crew, Zanu-PF dignitaries and his rich buddies, it would be a stretch of imagination for any of the attendees to claim that they were with the boxing legend or that they fully witnessed his open workout session.

"We cannot see him clearly from here, we just want him to come close and at least give us fist bumps," shouted two adolescents.

As the teens yearned for selfie moments, the older generation scrounged for opportunities and hoped that either the benefactor or his affluent guest would give them more than a showcase of wealth.

The youthful constituents of Mabvuku-Tafara, where Sakupwanya is vying for a parliamentary seat under a Zanu-PF ticket, opined that the money could have been put to better use.

"They are spending their money alone, this trip is of no use to us,"  said George Masambi, a carpenter.

"What we want is for Scott to take care of us and make sure that our lives are better by funding our projects."

Somehow, true to Masambi's sentiments, for all its worth, Mayweather's trip seemed a far cry from addressing the slightest problems faced by locals.

According to critics Sakupwanya may have brought Mayweather in as a crowning moment in his election campaign to land the area's parliamentary seat albeit ill-thought-out.

This is not the first time that the gold dealer and his high-rolling clique have spent money to ride on the influence of a foreign celebrity to further political interests.

Last year, they flew in millionaire US rapper Rick Ross, born William Leonard Roberts II, for a show at the Harare International Conference Centre with reports pointing at a possibility he spent in excess of a hefty US$200 000.

Mid-performance, Ross invited Sakupwanya and Emmerson Mnangagwa Jr (the president's son) before he was handed the "national scarf" afterwards in an act symbolising endorsement of the 80-year-old leader's reign.

Had Nigeria's Burna Boy not refused to meddle in local politics, reports claim that Sakupwanya and crew had dangled a jaw-dropping amount for him to endorse their party by donning the scarf among other antics.

Maywether, on the other hand, wore the scarf during his trip and even paid the president a visit before begging the nation to vote for Mnangagwa.

He claimed: "he's for the people and I told him he has my support 100%."

Interestingly, Sakupwanya was earlier this year named as one of the country's biggest gold barons by Mnangagwa's ambassador-at-Large Uebert Angel in an Al Jazeera four-episode documentary Gold Mafia, which alleged massive gold smuggling and money laundering in Zimbabwe.

Despite the controversy, Zanu-PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa branded Sakupwanya's efforts a glowing story of sponsorship.

"One cannot argue with success. President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Zanu-PF second republic are a run-away success story at national, African and global stages," Mutsvangwa told our sister paper NewsDay last week.

However, as the ruling party reclines into a deep war chest gathered by its money men to grease the wheels of the campaign trail, sections of the public wonder where they fit in this grand show of political might.

"The people know what they want and that is a change of government, that filthy wealth that they are flashing around is not enough to change the people's minds," opposition CCC candidate for Mabvuku-Tafara, Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi, told The Standard.

Extravagant events constantly hosted by his opponent are products of "stolen money meant to distract young people from real issues", says Kufahakutizwi.

"Sakupwanya and his party are hosting these events where they bring artistes and peddle drugs while also taking advantage of local young girls, the people can see all this and to even have a youthful crowd during the week is a sign of unemployment, these are problems which we intend to address when we get into office," he said.

Carelessly sipping a liquid that reeks of alcohol, Masambi, who could not hide his displeasure, agreed.

"We do not care about his (Sakupwanya) personal achievements, what we want is for him to make sure that our lives are better through the wealth that he has," Masambi added.

"They should not kill our minds by buying us alcohol."

Source - The Standard