BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
A LEAKED phone conversation between Zanu PF’s Chiredzi North MP Roy Bhila and Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) business manager Innocent Gukwe has exposed political interference in the awarding of tenders in parastatals.
The meddling was exposed when Bhila ordered the cancellation of a transport tender which had been awarded to Sasavona Logistics owned by losing MDC Alliance candidate John Manganye.
In the leaked audio, Bhila is heard ordering Cottco to withdraw the tender for a 31-seater bus to ferry Cottco employees to and from work which had been won by Sasavona Logistics.
This incident happened barely a year after Manganye, who is based in the United Kingdom, made a donation offer to Chiredzi Polyclinic, which the Chiredzi West MP Farai Musikavanhu (Zanu PF) ordered to be rejected.
In the 2018 harmonised elections, Manganye contested for the Chiredzi West seat against Musikavanhu.
In the leaked telephone conversation, Gukwe could be heard innocently trying to explain that Cottco awarded the tender for a 31-seater omnibus to Sasavona Logistics unware that it was owned by a losing MDC MP.
Bhila then threatened the Cottco manager saying that he risked getting fired if he did not withdraw the tender offer.
The hapless Gukwe tried to explain Cottco processes in awarding tenders, saying the company did not discriminate along political lines, but Bhila could have none of it.
“No one knew that the bus belonged to an MDC Alliance member. We do not look into people’s political backgrounds when awarding tenders. We thought it was just another local business person. We are now following your decisions on the case because Dingane Ncube (CIO) once came to me with the issue and said he was going to advise me on how to handle the issue,” Gukwe said.
“I am saying withdraw that contract with immediate effect. That bus belongs to an MDC Alliance member. Ministers are coming here on April 23 and the issue is going to be briefed to those ministers.
“The owner of the bus is the one who contested Farai Musikavanhu in 2018 and Musikavanhu is saying he is going to complain about the issue during the briefing with the ministers,” Bhila charged.
He told Gukwe that he would be in soup if he did not withdraw the tender.
“I am saying cancel that tender,” said Bhila before handing the phone to one Soul Nyangoni believed to be a member of the CIO.
Nyangoni then threatened that someone was going to lose their job if they did not cancel the tender.
“You just have to follow the advice you have been given by Bhila and we are managing the issue from our office,” Nyangoni said.
Gukwe has since withdrawn the tender.
The bus was eventually registered under the Zimbabwe Passenger Company (Zupco) franchise. Israel Muchini, the registered owner of the bus confirmed to NewsDay that the Cottco tender had since been cancelled.
“Yes, I was told that the bus was being withdrawn because it is owned by an MDC Alliance member. It is now plying Zupco local routes,” Muchini said.
Bhila refused to comment on the issue.