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Mnangagwa's Chivayo nod raises a stink

by Staff reporter
26 May 2024 at 13:48hrs | Views
President Emmerson Mnangagwa's decision to authorize a partnership between a company associated with controversial figure Wicknell Chivayo and American firm SpaceX for the introduction of Starlink services in Zimbabwe has raised concerns among observers regarding the transparency of the licensing process.

Mnangagwa's announcement, made via a statement, revealed that SpaceX had been approved to offer its Starlink internet services in Zimbabwe in collaboration with IMC Communications, linked to Chivayo. IMC Communications, lacking a known telecommunications track record in Zimbabwe or Africa, shares offices with Chivayo's Intratrek, embroiled in controversy over the failed Gwanda Solar Project tendered by Zesa.

Sources indicated that IMC Communications received approval to partner with SpaceX only recently, with the Ministry of Information Communication Technology and Courier Services reportedly overseeing the process without full transparency to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz).

Starlink, SpaceX's satellite network aimed at providing affordable internet to remote areas, applied for an operating license in April amid government threats against users of unauthorized network providers. Neville Mutsvangwa, son of Zanu-PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa and Women's Affairs minister Monica Mutsvangwa, was arrested for operating a Starlink satellite connection without authorization.

Mnangagwa portrayed the Starlink licensing as evidence of his government's commitment to digitalizing Zimbabwe's economy by 2030, emphasizing the potential for high-speed, low-cost internet infrastructure deployment, particularly in rural areas.

While Zimbabweans welcomed the prospect of improved internet connectivity, questions arose regarding the selection of Chivayo's company without a competitive tender process. Maxwell Saungweme, a political analyst, attributed such deals to endemic corruption and proximity to political power.

Chivayo, known for winning significant government tenders, has enjoyed close ties with Mnangagwa's administration, frequently appearing alongside top officials at public events. Transparency International Zimbabwe and other organizations called for scrutiny of the Starlink deal, emphasizing adherence to procurement regulations and transparency in the tendering process.

Critics like former President Mnangagwa advisor Eddie Cross labeled Chivayo as corrupt, referencing his failure to deliver on the Gwanda Solar Project. The project, plagued by delays and legal disputes, has raised doubts about the sincerity of Mnangagwa's anti-corruption efforts. Potraz director general Gift Machengete was unavailable for comment.

Source - online