By Noxolo Ndazi | Qoki Zindlovukazi!, a name that was synonymous with women empowerment, community development and charity activities. Presently, the same name does not live to its status quo. It is marred by gross incompetence and fraudulent activities. It is important to note that Qoki was founded on the premise of a Community Interest Company (C.I.C) with a charitable status. Women came together to support charitable causes, pooled money together for mini projects from as little as buying each other kitchenware to solar systems etc. The vision expanded to property and recently property development, which would prove to be a gigantic challenge. As the horizon extended it necessitated a change in company formation. It was then registered in multiple names to suit the cause. The brand grew phenomenally and beyond the founders’ capabilities.
They lacked business acumen, etiquette and corporate responsibility. Qoki failed to tap into its wealth of expertise and unique blend of skills of its members, to optimise the execution of their projects. There is no profession that the writer can think of that is not found amongst the investors, legal, accounting, business, project management, civil engineering just to mention a few relevant ones. Sadly, the projects were personalised to the detriment of success, self sabotage in its purest form.
Furthermore, lack of structure and binding contracts for big projects like land purchase and development led to the anarchy as investors felt they were losing control of their investment. Greed and corruption can easily takeover when there’s no accountability and when the leader of the project has too much power. It is important to have a clear set of rules and regulations that are followed by everyone involved in the project, and to ensure that everyone is held accountable for their actions.
Additionally, it is important to have a system of checks and balances in place to ensure that no one person has too much power. This is by far the biggest problem at Qoki across all projects. Ms Sithule Tshuma and her right hand person Ms Karen Kumalo run the show without consulting the stakeholders. They make it seem as if people are buying something from them when in contrary people have pooled their funds together for whatever cause. In another example, the lawyer, Mr Zibusiso Ncube represented both the buyer and the seller in most projects thereby compromising buyers’ protection. If there had been some gatekeeping measures most problems, such as, inflated prices, could have been avoided. Purchases would not have proceeded without valid title deeds. To complicate things further there was conflict of interest with Mr Ncube’s appointment as a conveyancer for these projects by virtue of being a Qoki and Ms Tshuma’s personal lawyer. The ladies were left vulnerable despite paying lawyer’s fees.
Mr Ncube is quoted below: “Whilst I’m engaged to attend to the transfer of the property and paid for that, I will not be engaged in entertaining other correspondence outside the group unless I am paid by the individuals to do so. Remember a lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.” Mr Z.C. Ncube.
Crowdfunded projects are communal and as such warranty a lot of transparency and an inclusive style of management. Funds are pooled from multiple sources and managed by a single entity, so accountability is prime. These funds should be managed responsibly and should be used for their intended purpose. It is important to ensure that transactions are properly documented and that any discrepancies are addressed in a timely manner. In a surprising development, Qoki Trucks project allegedly had no bank account, talk less of a proper accounting procedure. The trucks were fitted with tracking devices but only Ms Tshuma and her allies had access. Seemingly not all trips were recorded. Families of investors back in Zimbabwe would spot the truck, say in Harare, on unauthorised trips. The members would have been made to believe that there was no work for that specific truck at that particular time.
Moreover, all parties should be involved or made aware of any discrepancies. For instance, in Nondweni 2 there has been a court case dating back to March 2022 where Qoki is applying for an eviction order of the settlers that were allocated land by the government through the land reform programme. This has not been disclosed to the stakeholders to date.
The project should be managed in a way that is fair and equitable to all involved. This includes clear communication about the project’s goals, objectives, timeline, budget and progress. It also means that all stakeholders should have a say in the decision making process and it should be managed in a way that is respectful of everyone’s opinions and contributions without judgement. In most Qoki projects, the investors have to ask for progress updates. The leaders are not pro-active with reports or updates. The projects were not measurable owing to poor project management and execution. The bullying and harassment happening there is some form of compensatory behaviour triggered by lack of knowledge by the leaders. When members ask pertinent questions they are ridiculed or thrown out of the WhatsApp groups which are the main channel of communication. Invoices are posted on the groups but never receipts.
Most government or City Council bills are charged in local currency in Zimbabwe but at Qoki they are billed in US dollars on Non-government/City Council stationery. Procurement procedures are informal and incomparable to other competitors. A Bulawayo City Council (BCC) employee who acts as ‘Qoki’s integral due diligence guru’, a townplanning advisor to Qoki and is referred to as ‘Townplanner’, one Victor Masuku, allegedly does everything from, viewing land, physical planning to quantity surveying, road designing and construction. So much bias there as it is not known if applications pass on merit or by virtue of Mr Masuku being a BCC employee. Mr Masuku’s expertise in all these roles is yet to tested, so far, there has been some concerns regards the exorbitant road pricing and the quality of roads constructed by his company called Sindaku.
Stakeholders should have trust and confidence in the system. It raises so much doubt when integrity and transparency are not employed. At one instance Ms Tshuma is heard saying “we had to do what we had to do, ….too bad I can’t share here” (audio attached below), one is left wondering if she was insinuating she bribed her way through to get subdivision permits.
Such sinister irregularities are observed in most projects. Redacted pivotal documents like an agreement of sale; or with wrong deceased estate numbers; Court orders signed by the deputy sheriff in chambers without being advertised for fear of opposition; people signing on behalf of title holders without power of attorney. It is a myriad of gross criminal and unethical misconduct.
Cry our beloved country! in a normal economy, buying land or property should not be tedious and complex as this. Systems should be put in place and intertwined to curb corruption. Legal professionals should be vetted, monitored and expelled from the register for misconduct. The government should also put in place regulations to ensure that private sellers do not take advantage of people by selling stands at highly inflated prices.
One confounding factor that led to this authoritarian rule and concealing of information is the basis on which Qoki was formed. Qoki was a breakaway faction of Mthwakazi Queens. It was formed on betrayal and deception so the domino effect is constantly perceived, as the saying goes ‘history repeats itself’. The prototype of this model was Mthwakazi Queens brainchild and its members were poached from them by Qoki founders hence the delusional imaginary ‘soft coup’ the exiters are accused of. To be quite frank nobody in their right minds would touch Qoki projects with a ten foot pole. The guilty are always afraid.