Friday, June 21, 2024

Samson Moyo Guma; isolated, alone and on a slippery ground

On Friday 29th May, Tati East Member of Parliament, Samson Moyo Guma alighted from his Range Rover at Game City and sauntered into the premises of Standard Chartered bank to facilitate transactions that would enable him to pay his numerous employees and creditors. He was taken aback when the bank manager told him that his account had been frozen, as per instructions from the highest office in the land. He immediately called his bosom buddy, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who denied the involvement of the Office of the President and laughed off the issue as a simple technical error from the bank.

But this was no laughing matter. It was the beginning of a fight for political survival by Moyo Guma, who is now fending off escalating attacks from his political enemies and the threat of jail, if on-going investigations unearth corrupt activities on his part. Last month the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), acting on behalf of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), filed a miscellaneous application for the bank accounts of Moyo Guma’s company, IRB Transport and those of his business associate Thapelo Olopeng, to be frozen. Though Moyo was not charged, the application was viewed by many within political circles as the beginning of his downfall.

When he became Minister of Youth Sports and Culture, Olopeng sold his shareholding in Executive Closets lodge in Phase IV to Moyo Guma, a long time friend and business partner. He was paid P3, 4 million through a cheque from IRB Transport, a company wholly owned by Moyo. It was this cheque that led to Olopeng being enjoined in the application for Moyo Guma’s accounts to be frozen. Sunday Standard investigations indicate that IRB Transport has been under surveillance by Botswana’s financial intelligence and security organs.

In 2013, Moyo Guma signed a consultancy agreement with Chinese multinational Sinohydro, which later won a $319million tender to expand the 300 MW Kariba South Hydro Power Station in Zimbabwe. Though he is a Motswana, Moyo Guma is of Zimbabwean descent and he has close blood and commercial ties with powerful individuals in Zimbabwe, where he also reportedly holds a few mining interests. For the consultancy services, IRB was paid $3, 2 million in January, and a further $3.15million in November 2014. The massive transactions, totalling close to P60 million, immediately attracted the attention of the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA), which made enquiries about the millions. Sources indicate that Moyo Guma then furnished the authorities with all the relevant documents, including his contract with Sinohydro and the tax clearance certificate indicating that he had indeed paid a withholding tax of 6.4 percent to the Chinese government. In June, the DCEC and DPP made an application for Moyo Guma accounts to be frozen pending investigations into possible corruption. The case will continue at Village Magistrates court on July 28th. Moyo Guma’s troubles increased tenfold when the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) pounced on him after the DCEC application. He has been slapped with a notice of tax assessment and a P33 million tax bill. The onus is now upon him to put his books in order and settle matters with the tax man.

Clearly the chickens have come home to roost for Moyo Guma, a shrwed, fearless and fast-talking operative who has raised business alliance with politics in Botswana to an altogether new height. The man who rose from the clutches of poverty in a sleepy village of Tsamaya in the North east District to become a BDP king maker, touted as a close confidante of the President and the puppet master of many a politician suddenly found himself on foreign ground, isolated and alone as his direct line to the Office of the President rang unanswered. The DCEC had told him that they received instructions to freeze his accounts from the highest office on the land. Once a close confidante of President Khama, it seems Moyo Guma has been booted out of the circle of power. Even his friend Masisi publicly issued a statement distancing himself from Moyo ahead of the BDP national congress.

Isolated and humiliated by allegations of corruption, Moyo turned to the media and lashed out at fellow BDP members, saying they are obsessed with in-fighting at the expense of the national interest.

“I seriously detest internal fights in the BDP. People are missing the bigger picture. In the BDP it’s about individuals and not the organisation or the country first. We need a rethink,” he said.

The Tati East legislator has also sent a delegation to President Ian Khama to relay his concerns about persecution and harassment by fellow BDP members. He also wants to meet with President Khama, in the presence of his brother Tshekedi Khama.

To many within the BDP, Moyo Guma’s fall from grace has been a long time coming. His detractors believe he has no traceable record of service within the party as he only became active in 2004 when he was invited to stand for elections to topple the then long serving Butale. He went on to win a second and third term in 2009 and 2014 respectively. He served as Assistant Minister of Finance for eight months in 2008 before stepping down in a cloud of controversy amid allegations that he was about to be charged for corruption. The allegations of corruption and conflict of interest emerged after Moyo’s company, the same IRB was accused of inflating charges against plot owners when it was contracted to collect debts on behalf of the Ministry of Lands. However, the state later abandoned the case, citing insufficient evidence. Again Moyo Guma pleaded persecution by political detractors, principally the then Vice President, Mompati Merafhe.

In 2009, Moyo served as additional member in the BDP central committee before dumping the party for the opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) in 2009, where he also served as Treasurer. President Khama publicly implored him to return to BDP and he successfully stood for the position of chairman in 2013. His stint as chairman was short-lived as he resigned a few months. While he claimed that he resigned from the position to clear his name, reports later emerged that Moyo left because he had failed to get protection from the Office of the President against a media smear campaign and intrusive investigations by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Service (DISS).

At the time, there were also allegations that he was using the BDP chairmanship to position himself for the Vice Presidency. BDP die hards were also not happy with the way Moyo Guma had used his financial resources to outclass his competitor, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi. They also viewed him with suspicion as he contested the chairmanship just after returning from the BMD. Guma was also implicated in the BDP’s messy primary elections ahead of the 2014 general elections ÔÇô a charge he vehemently denied.

Though he was not a much loved man in the BDP, Moyo Guma’s greatest consolation for many years was that he enjoyed the patronage and friendship of President Khama. But now it seems the dynamics have changed and President Khama has found new friends.

Many believe Moyo Guma’s current woes were orchestrated by powerful forces within BDP and government who are jostling for seats in Khama’s circle of friends. At the same time, BDP insiders believe the Khama family is not happy with the men and women who have surrounded the President and whose advice has often led to embarrassment. Reports indicate that Moyo Guma has sent a delegation from Tati East constituency to seek a meeting with Khama.

Moyo’s investments

Through his company, IRB, Guma has reportedly brokered multi million Pula deals between several African governments and Chinese multi nationals, in the process earning himself millions in consultancy fees. He was the middle man when Sinohydro was contracted to build several infrastructure developments in Botswana, including the new Sir Seretse Khama Airport, Kang-Hukuntsi road, Francistown-Ramokgwebana road, Dikgatlhong Dam and Lotsane dam, Francistown/Ramokgwebana road. However, the company left the country in shame after Botswana Government, owing to goading from intelligence services started a low intensity war against Chinese companies.

In Botswana, Moyo Guma used to have a shareholding in a cement mine in Matsiloje, near Francistown. His latest pet project is United Refineries, a multi million Pula oil refinery project that will produce three million litres of cooking oil per month for local consumption and export. He is also part of a citizen consortium that is setting up a sugar extraction plant in Francistown, in which government has a 40 percent stake through the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA). The Francistown project also involves construction of a golf estate.

Sunday Standard investigations have also revealed that Moyo Guma has been granted 5,000 hectares of land in Pandamatenga for a sunflower and sugar plantation. Moyo Guma is also a major shareholder in cartage and transport logististics contractors Uti as well a few property portfolios.

“Guma seems to prefer deals that pay huge amounts of hard cash for services offered instead of high capital investments. It’s a lucrative business for those that have information,” said one of his lieutenants.

It remains to be seen whether the freezing of his accounts will culminate in a corruption case that will bring to an end an illustrious political and business career. What remains a fact however is that his relations with the ruling party and President Khama in particular will never be the same. But then Moyo Guma has always been a survivor.


Read this week's paper