Harare, Zimbabwe – On June 10, 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, speaking in Mutoko, Mashonaland East province, declared controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo a candidate for Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. Mnangagwa referenced Chivayo’s numerous scandals, including the failed US$173 million Gwanda Solar project, for which Chivayo received US$5.8 million in advance without any significant progress on the project.

Despite these earlier tensions, recent revelations suggest a significant shift in their relationship. In a leaked audio recording obtained by The NewsHawks, Chivayo boasts of having captured Mnangagwa, claiming to exert a powerful influence over the President. The audio, which Chivayo and his publicists now assert is a deepfake, details his ability to get whatever he wants from Mnangagwa.

The recording also touches on a corrupt US$40 million tender from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that has significantly increased Chivayo’s wealth. In the audio, Chivayo describes escorting Mnangagwa on a red carpet to his flight for the Italy-Africa Summit in January 2024, highlighting his close ties to the President.

Chivayo claims he has captured not only Mnangagwa but the entire system, leveraging these connections for financial gain. He has been using funds from the ZEC deal to expand his influence across the region, recently meeting with presidents in Uganda and Tanzania to seek further tenders.

The NewsHawks confirmed the authenticity of the leaked audio, which sheds light on Chivayo’s extensive network of influence, including close relationships with Mnangagwa’s Vice-Presidents, Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi. Chivayo has been using his wealth to buy loyalty, donating cars and cash to Zanu PF supporters to solidify his political support.

Chivayo’s controversial business practices and close ties to high-ranking officials raise serious concerns about corruption within the Zimbabwean government. The leaked audio reveals his strategy of leveraging political connections to secure lucrative deals and evade accountability.

This unfolding scandal underscores the challenges of tackling corruption in Zimbabwe, as powerful individuals like Chivayo continue to exploit their connections for personal gain.