By Wendy Muperi
Harare — Show-off tenderprenuer Wicknell Chivhayo was hung out to dry Monday after an Intratrek lawyer told a parliamentary committee that the controversial businessman hasn’t owned shares in the company since 2014.
The attorney also told legislators that the Intratrek board was restructuring its management to ensure the company is run by “credible and reputable individuals” in remarks that could mean former jailbird Chivayo’s days at the firm are numbered.
Chivayo appeared before Parliament’s Mines and Energy Committee which is chaired by Temba Mliswa to answer questions on the controversial $173 million Gwanda solar project tender which he was awarded by a unit of power utility ZESA in 2015.
No progress has been made on the project despite Chivayo collecting more around $7m from the parastatal in payments which Intratrek now says cannot be accounted for.
While the businessman, who flaunts his riches on social media, claimed to jointly and equally own the company with one Ibrahim Ahmed Yusuf, his three hours with the committee suggested that he might be terribly misadvised regarding his interest in the firm.
Chivhayo started by justifying the tender awarding process and advance payments before the lawmakers by describing how much he had spent on the deal through travel to various countries such as Germany and China.
He said his partners were also worth billions of dollars, hence the company had the capacity to deliver the solar project.
“I spent so much money going to Germany … and China and presented my case to a company called Chint Electrics; the company has assets worth $30 billion and annual turnover of over 12 billion,” he said.
Not a shareholder
However, commercial lawyer Bruce Tokwe – representing Yusuf who is reportedly out of the country – had a different story for the MPs.
Tokwe told legislators that Chivhayo ceded his 50 percent shares to Yusuf as part of a deal to settle the youthful businessman’s dues.
The attorney further revealed that Chivhayo was presently just managing director of Intratrek, adding that all the expenses associated with facilitating the Gwanda deal were met by Yusuf.
“In 2014, Mr Chivhayo actually borrowed some money on the understanding that he would cede all his shareholding in Intratrek Zimbabwe which he later did to a company called Intermeloun Investments.
“As things stand, he (Chivayo) is not a shareholder in Intratrek. The biggest challenge is that, even in communicating with this house, he has been saying ‘did this, I did that, my that’; he never respected certain cooperate governance issues that relate to management of companies.
Management changes looming
“In fact, we have asked the same questions that you (MPs) are asking in this august house for example what could have happened with the monies and even the shareholders themselves are none the wiser.”
Challenged by MPs on why he had lied regarding ownership of the company, Chivayo argued that Yusuf had given him back the shares, but Tokwe dismissed the claim, saying he had documents to prove he was no longer a shareholder.
Meanwhile, legislators questioned Tokwe on why the company had not relieved Chivhayo of his duties in light of the gravity of the issues he faced.
The attorney said the company was in the midst of restructuring its board and management to ensure “credible and reputable individuals are appointed to manage its affairs”.
“The shareholders we are talking here are business people with several mandates and diverse interests and they normally shy away from fights that normally escalate from the boardroom, but we feel that now we can enjoy some traction because of, obviously, the new dispensation,” he said justifying the delay.
Tokwe said the shareholders were ready with the equipment and finance to, within “a week”, progress the Gwanda project.