During Kenyan President William Ruto’s recent visit to Zimbabwe, a photograph featuring him alongside Zimbabwe’s controversial businessman, Wicknell Chivayo, has ignited controversy and prompted questions about the repercussions of such associations on regional political and business relations.

President Ruto’s diplomatic mission aimed to bolster ties between the two nations but was overshadowed by Chivayo’s presence. Chivayo, known for his legal troubles, including a prior arrests, has drawn scrutiny for his involvement in high-profile luxury purchases and questionable business claims.

The photo opportunity, orchestrated by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s team, has been criticized for compromising the integrity of state affairs and reflecting poorly on Mnangagwa’s administration. Business commentator Brighton Musonza condemned Mnangagwa’s decision to include Chivayo, highlighting concerns about a leadership style that blurs the lines between personal interests and state functions.

The absence of Zimbabwean cabinet ministers at the event, coupled with Chivayo’s familial entourage and heavy security presence, further underscored the perception of personalization over official duties. Such arrangements have reportedly dissuaded other African leaders from visiting Zimbabwe, casting doubt on Mnangagwa’s governance approach.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa echoed these sentiments, accusing Mnangagwa of treating state events as private gatherings and undermining their formal significance. Moreover, Chivayo’s unverified business claims and his strategic inclusion in state functions raise suspicions of transactional politics aimed at consolidating power and influence.