THE proprietor of a company caught up in a probe on state-owned mobile phone operator NetOne after the parastatal paid large sums of money to it without a contract donated nearly US$100 000 towards President Robert Mugabe’s birthday party last year, Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Local businessman Agrippa Bopela Masiyakurima, whose company Bopela Group of Companies is embroiled in the NetOne corruption scandal which resulted in the struggling parastatal losing millions of United States dollars has, emerged as one of the benefactors of Mugabe’s 91th annual birthday bash celebrations.
Sources in Zanu PF Youth League this week told the Independent that Masiyakurima last year donated US$ 91 000 to Mugabe’s 91st birthday bash which was celebrated in Victoria Falls. The US$91 000 was for every year Mugabe had lived.
The birthday bash which was held at the Elephant Hills golf course was one of the most expensive birthday parties hosted for Mugabe.
“It must have been Bopela’s first donation to Mugabe’s birthdays where he donated such a big amount. It is there that he pledged to donate a US$1 000 more to every year added to the president’s life,” said the source in Zanu PF Youth League.
However, youth league sources said he did not live up to his pledge this year.
“It was only last year when he donated,” he said.
The ongoing forensic audit into NetOne came after a report done by the company’s board chairperson, Alex Marufu, revealed that company chief finance officer Sibusisiwe Ndlovu had unearthed a series of scandals at the state-run firm which have prejudiced the company millions of dollars.
Some of the scandals include lack of suppliers’ reconciliations, payment of funds to companies that are not contracted to NetOne, over-invoicing of contracts and poor accounting methods.
Ndlovu noted that several “rush” payments were being made to a company called Bopela, which specialises in telecommunication, construction and electrical engineering that in effect had no contract with NetOne, but was being paid all the same.
The company was involved primarily in the construction of cellphone towers, but had been paid two payments of US$40 000 each for the provision of a service to sign up 500 000 youths as NetOne subscribers, which service had not been delivered.
The NetOne board last month suspended chief executive Reward Kangai for three months following the allegations.
Allegations are also that Bopela Group of Companies was hand given a contract for the supply and installation of base stations at 100 sites for the Mobile Broadband Project a long time ago at US$52 000 per base station.
Masiyakurima is understood to have been overpaid US$500 000 and demanded his payment in advance, while using his influence to speed up payments for contracts he was not contracted to carry out.
Insiders say Bopela Group of Companies failed to roll out the projects despite being paid.
Masiyakurima, a close ally of the First Lady Grace, is also understood to be bankrolling Grace’s whirlwind meet-the-people rallies which she has used to cast aspersions at a Zanu PF faction led by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
However, when contacted yesterday Masiyakurima denied donating US$91 000 to Mugabe’s birthday and funding Grace’s rallies.
Masiyakurima said: “I never donated US$91 000 to President Robert Mugabe’s birthday. I never donated anything. I also have not donated anything to Dr Amai’s (Grace) projects and rallies. Zimbabwe Independent and The Herald, I know such newspapers are being told what to do by Supa (Minister of for Information, Communication and Technology and Courier Services Supa Mwandiwanzira.”)
Though he denied being a G40 supporter claiming that there was no G40 faction in Zanu PF, Masiyakurima confirmed that a Facebook account that has posted acerbic remarks on Mandiwanzira was his.
On Wednesday, he attacked Mandiwanzira on his Facebook page saying the ICT minister was pushing Mnangagwa’s agenda.
On allegations raised on him by NetOne board, Masiyakurima said he was not worried, adding that energy was being wasted on trivial issues while there was real corruption taking place in various state enterprises.
He said: “These people (Marufu and Mandiwanzira) have an agenda. They are attacking me because they think that I have been funding Dr Amai’s rallies with money coming from NetOne. That is why they suspended engineer Kangai. They keep on saying a fraud like this and that took place even before the forensic audit is carried out.
“Whereas these people are up to looting. They should explain why NSSA is refusing to release US$30 million to Telecel. Why also some official at Portaz is on the verge of being fired for refusing to bow down to certain deals.
There must be a commission of inquiry into all of this. They should attack me with a sober mind and not just say whatever they want. We are not worried about Team Lacoste.”