Ginimbi, Wicknell and the evolution of Zimbabwe's flamboyant businessman

 Ginimbi, Wicknell and the evolution of Zimbabwe's flamboyant businessman
Published: 25 November 2018
WHEN Zimbabwe's Minister of Finance Mthuli Ncube announced the country's highly anticipated budget last Thursday, it would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall in the residences of the two self styled businessmen, Wicknell Chivayo and Genius "Ginimbi" Kadungure.

After all, as the masters of business and opportunity that they have proclaimed themselves to be over the last few years, one would think that a statement by the country's financial authority would be one they would not like to miss.

For most conventional businessmen, Thursday's statement demanded that their eyes remain glued to their television sets and their bums firmly stuck on their chairs. But Ginimbi and Wicknell are anything but conventional and perhaps Minister Ncube's speech would have had them adjusting their sets.

Titled "Austerity for Prosperity", the budget would have perhaps struck a much more familiar chord with those that live life according to exactly that - a budget. Over the past few years in which they have flashed just about enough of their money and trinkets to gain the begrudging attention of the whole country, Wicknell and Ginimbi have not looked like individuals that know what a budget, let alone austerity, means.

On Thursday Minister Ncube, before the country's legislature, executive and thousands watching from home, would have been preaching a gospel that the two are not familiar with, a hymn book whose verses are as strange to them as they are to any layman. That is if their well advertised lifestyles are anything to go by.

That sermon, whose emphasis was on the importance of tightening belts and cutting unnecessary expenses, would have left the two flamboyant moguls feeling like the man preaching on that pulpit in Zimbabwe's August house did not subscribe to the same religion as they did. The man who walked in carrying a black briefcase that carried the economic fate of a country was clearly an alien, the fly on their wall might have heard them mutter.

A cursory glance at just their social media accounts would suggest that austerity is not a word that features prominently in their vocabulary. Earlier this year, while pressure was piling on him for his alleged failure to deliver on the Gwanda Solar Project, Wicknell showed off with pictures of his well stocked shoe closet, which boasted of a new entry in the form a R20 000 addition. Ginimbi, although he has nothing against expensive shoes, has shown in the past that his greatest weakness is for bigger toys, with an impressive range of vehicles that was topped by a 2018 Rolls Royce Ghost whose value is estimated at close to R4,1m.

Of course, the two have many issues to worry about at the moment than the country's budget for the coming year. The two were arrested recently after attending two separate court sessions. Kadungure was arrested on charges of alleged tax evasion amounting to $22 million, while Chivayo's lawyer Advocate Lewis Uriri said his client was arrested on charges of bribing former Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) board chairperson Mr Stanley Nyasha Kazhanje with $10 000.

Although they have since been released on bail, their twin arrests were continuation of the legal troubles that have stalked the pair in recent months. And although they might protest, they have also undoubtedly become the poster boys of opulence and flashy wealth during a time when a vast majority of the country's population can barely make ends meet.

Almost every week, it seems, a fresh "ghost" resurrects from deals that the two might have thought were firmly dead and buried, and while their innocence or guilt is yet to be decided by the courts, the picture is no longer as pretty for the two businessmen like it was a year ago.

When the dark clouds of legal trouble started to gather ominously, one perhaps can forget that Ginimbi and self knighted Sir Wicknell are not the first of their kind to walk Zimbabwean soil. The flashy pair is just the latest in a lineage that stretches decades.

Perhaps the seeds that led to the birth of the country's new breed of flamboyant businesspeople were sown when the country's economy was liberalised in 1991 through government's Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap) which saw a new crop of indigenous entrepreneurs emerge and formed organisations such as the Indigenous Business Development Centre (IBDC) to push black empowerment.

This platform created a solid foundation of success for a group of entrepreneurs such as Mutumwa Mawere, Nicholas Vingirayi, Shingi Mutasa, Daniel Shumba, Ben Mucheche, Nigel Chanakira, Chemist Siziba, Strive Masiyiwa, James Makamba, Jane Mutasa and the late Roger Boka, among others.

Another organisation, the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) was formed in 1994 out of frustration by young black businesspeople who included the late Peter Pamire and Philip Chiyangwa over what they described as the IBDC's failure to bring a significant increase in the participation of black indigenous businesspeople in the country's economy. Of all these business luminaries, perhaps Wicknell and Ginimbi's DNA closely resembles that of Pamire and Chiyangwa, flamboyant businesspeople that were never afraid to flaunt their wealth when the occasion called for it. Flashy cars and a champagne lifestyle was what characterised their lives in the 90s, as they brought Hollywood to the streets of the country's major cities.

The 90s were certainly a booming time for the young, black and ambitious as exemplified by the dramatic and eye catching life of Lawrence "Warlord" Fambainesu Chakaredza. According to urban lore, Chakaredza would make it a point to be seen around town in the company of an energetic young white man who was always burdened with carrying the businessman's heavy briefcases.

Chakaredza, known as "Warlord" in his formative student activism days at University of Zimbabwe and later as Munhumutapa III, had a point to make for the Zimbabwean public, vast majority of whom had grown up when the image of servant and master was the other way round

"I make this white man carry heavy baggage for me," he is reported to have once said.

For those that witnessed the antics of the likes of Chakaredza, the actions of Wicknell would therefore not seem strange at all. One thing however, distinguishes them from the men that they succeeded in this long and stories lineage of flamboyant men of money.

While the deeds of their predecessors spread through word of mouth, the likes of Wicknell, Ginimbi and other luminaries have been blessed with social media. Social media has been a timely and indispensable microphone for this new breed of businesspeople that have left all table manners aside and like the sport of shouting while their mouth is full.

Social media is a potent double edged sword as well, as people perhaps find it easier to get into bed with businesspeople that are clearly thriving as Ginimbi and Wicknell's social media accounts suggested they were over the last few years.

Recently, the "Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act and Exchange Control Act) Regulations, 2018", which empower government to seize assets of people who fail to disclose the source of their wealth, was gazetted.

As a nation tightens its belt and authorities tighten the noose on financial delinquents, one wonders whether Ginimbi and Wicknell will survive their legal storms or if perhaps they will be the last in the great line of flamboyant businesspeople who never quite understood the meaning of the term "quiet money".
- the standard


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