Mnangagwa Says Wicknell’s A Fly By Night Businessman Who’s Not Committed To Developing The Country
24 May 2024
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Government Critique of Wicknell Chivayo—A Retrospective Insight

By Farai D Hove | The Zimbabwean government’s principal newspaper, The Herald, under the byline of Farirai Machivenyika, starkly criticized businessman Wicknell Chivayo, painting a picture of a flashy but unreliable entrepreneur. This critique emerged in the context of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s comments during a tour of the Nyangani Renewable Energy project, which contrasted sharply with Chivayo’s troubled Gwanda solar project.

President Mnangagwa’s remarks highlighted a learning curve for the government stemming from the Gwanda project’s failures compared to the operational success at Nyangani. Mnangagwa emphasized the need for future projects to engage with “committed people who have experience in projects of this nature,” rather than “fly-by-night briefcase businessmen,” a clear jab at Chivayo. The President’s blunt reminder that “Chikurubi is not full” underscored a warning of potential legal repercussions, linking poor business practices with possible incarceration.

This framing in The Herald not only served as a public reprimand but also as a strategic alignment of the government’s narrative with public accountability and transparency in economic dealings. The state’s portrayal of Chivayo juxtaposed his social media displays of wealth—including selfies with stacks of cash—against the backdrop of his professional failures, notably the stagnant Gwanda project that saw little progress despite significant financial outlays.

The parliamentary inquiry led by Norton legislator Temba Mliswa into the Gwanda project further compounded Chivayo’s troubles. It exposed serious irregularities and recommended that the tender be rescinded and funds repaid, painting a picture of mismanagement and inefficiency that directly contrasted with the professional execution seen at Nyangani Renewable Energy.

Reflecting on this 2018 media coverage offers insights into how the Zimbabwean government has utilized state media to shape public perception of business practices, highlighting a broader strategy of using high-profile cases to signal a crackdown on corruption and incompetence. This approach not only targets individual figures like Chivayo but also serves as a cautionary tale to other potential government contractors.

Nyangani Renewable Energy, with its long track record and significant contributions to the national grid, embodies the type of partnership the government promotes as ideal—experienced, efficient, and effective. This narrative underscores a clear governmental preference for reliability and experience over mere entrepreneurial zeal, which might be prone to overpromise and underdeliver.

The Herald’s treatment of the Chivayo case thus reflects not just a moment of governmental frustration but also a deliberate attempt to recalibrate expectations and standards for public-private partnerships in Zimbabwe. This news analysis from 2018 continues to resonate as a critical examination of how government expectations and media portrayals can influence national economic policy and business conduct.