If there is one man who will never forget the baptism of fire he went through in his quest to acquire a mobile network operator’s license, it has to be Zimbabwe’s phenomenal businessman Strive Masiyiwa.
The trials and tribulations he experienced at the hands of the then Minister of Information, Joice Mujuru went on to be debated in international courts even as far as the Denmark Parliament.
However there has been interesting debates around the matter with an insert by one analyst /Journalist cum Politician, Mr Jealous Mawarire who has his own point of view while technology experts and analysts heavily disagree with his sentiments.
However he quotes.
By Bee Sting
The allegations against Dr Mujuru are that she, actively influenced government decisions to award the first mobile network license to Telecel Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd even though Strive Masiyiwa and his Econet team were the first to bid for the license. Mujuru influenced the decision to award Telecel Pvt Ltd the first mobile network operator license because the man who fronted the bid, James Makamba hailed from the same province as her.
According to Jealous Mawarire, these allegations are based on pure ignorance on how the saga around the tender for Zimbabwe’s second cellular phone network punned out in as much as it has a limited appreciation of the relationship between Makamba, Mujuru and Masiyiwa.
It is trite to point out here that the three, Mujuru, Makamba and Masiyiwa all hail from Mashonaland Central Province therefore the allegation that Mujuru awarded Makamba the license because he is a ‘homeboy’ does not hold water since both Makamba and Masiyiwa are Mujuru’s ‘homeboys’.
The second issue that comes out seems to suggest that there was bad blood between Mujuru and Masiyiwa and for this reason Mujuru remained intransigent and insisted that Masiyiwa would not get the license.
Very few people know that it is, in fact, Mujuru who provided Masiyiwa with his first government contract when she awarded his company called Retrofit the contract to electrify Nembudziya Post Office in Gokwe. Strive Masiyiwa was then working for Zimbabwe’s parastatal PTC which was later transformed into modern day TelOne.
It is also a fact that the Zimbabwe Parliament was supposed to only have two mobile cellular networks was not a Mujuru decision but a cabinet resolution based on a technical report which Mujuru alleges did not give plausible reasons as to why the country was to have two cellular network operators not three.
In just the same way, the decision to award the tender for running Zimbabwe’s second cellular network to Telecel was not reached by Mujuru unilaterally but by a government tender board housed in the Ministry of Finance not Information, Posts and Telecommunications where she was minister.
Those who followed the saga would agree with me that Mujuru actually concurred with Masiyiwa that there were irregularities in the way the tender was handled by the Tender Board but differed with the businessman on how the irregularities could be rectified.
Mujuru insisted that the process could be rectified by instructing the Ministry of Finance to constitute a new tender board to re-adjudicate the bids while Masiyiwa there were irregularities in the way the tender board handled the bids, the court, on that basis, was supposed to award his company, Enhanced Communications Network (Pvt) Ltd, the tender to run the second cellular network.
The Herald of 5 June 1997, under a headline “I won’t contest order over cellphone tender” reported that the then Minister of Postal and Telecommunications, Joice Mujuru, was not going to “contest a court order setting aside the award of the tender for Zimbabwe’s second cellular phone network to Telecel Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd” but “she wants the proposed new Government Tender Board to re-adjudicate the tenders”.
Mujuru conceded that true to Masiyiwa’s observations, “the Supreme Court laid down procedures for the tender” were not adhered to and therefore the “tender process had been deficient” and that this was “the fault of the Tender Board” hence “the tenders should be re-evaluated by a new Tender Board” that the Ministry of Finance was then putting in place.
It was Mujuru’s argument then that “the High Court should not consider awarding a licence to Econet without referring the whole matter to trial so that the ‘many serious disputes’ in Econet’s statements could be put to test.” Mujuru wanted an adherence to the rule of law and due legal processes to be followed before the court could award Masiyiwa the tender.
Her preference to have the bids subjected to re-adjudication was on the understanding that this was a quicker way of resolving the saga. She, however, insisted that the option of going to court remained open for Econet arguing that “If the court thought the new board was unsatisfactory, then it could make its own order, after hearing the evidence (and determine) who should have the license.”
Never at any point, during the tender process, did Mujuru make deliberate efforts to determine the outcome of the process. She, rather, insisted that the laid down tender processes were supposed to be followed as demanded by the Supreme Court which had come up with the procedures.
When Econet successfully challenged the tender process, she concurred with the company’s observations and recommended that the bids be re-adjudicated by a new tender board.
Apart from the Econet licence saga, Mujuru is alleged to have been in the habit of soliciting 10 per cent bribes from companies. Mujuru may never be a hero in the eyes of many international companies who had operations in Zimbabwe due to her alleged involvement in the grabbing of farms and enterprises after the 2000 land redistribution resolutions by the government.
It might be a story that illuminated from political basis and over crowded by all kinds of corruption but Joice Mujuru still have a case to answer when judgment day comes because from the testimonies we gathered from Strive Masiyiwa, Mujuru did not make life easier for his homeboy in those days.
Masiyiwa would go on to find justice through the help of the late Vice President of that time, Father Joshua Nkomo who authorized Econet’s license in the absence of the powerful figures who did not have a general liking towards the young ambitious Strive.
Many things happened behind the scenes that even led to Masiyiwa leading an exile’s life in Zimbabwe since then even though he is law abiding son of the soil. We shall continue in the future to unearth what really transpired during those trying times for Strive Masiyiwa and his soon to be born and fiercely built global brand.