President Robert Mugabe has shelved plans to rehabilitate the Beitbridge border post amid reports his wife, Grace Mugabe’s preferred company, owned by a controversial South African multimillionaire and convicted fraudster Niko Shefer, was not awarded the tender an investigation by Khuluma Afrika has revealed.
Investigations revealed that Shefer, a close Grace ally, had shown interest in rehabilitating the busiest border post but security chiefs blocked the deal forcing Mugabe to shelve the plans until government raises its own funds.
“Shefer was promised that his company will be awarded the tender but the Joint Operation Command (JOC) which has captured the state and is making all key decisions blocked the deal citing security concerns.
“Shefer is a convicted fraudster whose controversial business deals have always backfired,” said a top government official.
“Grace has been lobbying for Shefer to be awarded the tender but the security chiefs are against the idea.”
JOC, is a grouping of the army, police and intelligence chiefs, they have been a key element in Mugabe power retention matrix, and his party’s battle for political survival. JOC operates like an army directorate embedded in the former liberation movement’s party structures and actively works to ensure Zanu PF retains power at all costs.
In periods of extreme pre-and post-election violence, JOC has been fingered as responsible for ordering gross human rights violations, and electoral fraud.
JOC has always worked behind the scenes to prevent any democratic transition in Zimbabwe and campaigned covertly for Mugabe and Zanu PF. In the aftermath of the violence of 2008-2009 that left least 340 people dead, and thousands displaced, Human Rights Watch (HRW), an American-founded international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights laid most of the blame on JOC.
The project will cost an estimated US$100 million to upgrade the border post to international standards.
Last year three companies submitted their proposals to cabinet but political interference delayed the process.
A top government official said: “Cabinet debated this issue last week and President Mugabe urged government to look for money and rehabilitate the border post instead of awarding the tender to controversial companies.”
“Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa had suggested that another local company, Zimborders, be awarded the tender but the president said government, through the Local government ministry, should raise funds to do the project.
Beitbridge border post is one of the busiest inland ports in sub-Saharan Africa and links the northern and southern corridors with a record 500 vehicles and 10 000 travellers passing through the port daily.
However, the port lacks soft and hard infrastructure that includes information technology and inspection bays, among others, to deal with high volumes of traffic.
Travellers spend 6-18 hours at the port of entry to complete immigration and customs formalities and for commercial traffic to be cleared it takes about three days.
The border is one of the most porous in the entire region, something which has made Zimbabwe’s counterparts in South Africa uneasy.
- Khuluma Afrika is a center for political analysis and investigative journalism. Tip offs can be sent via email@example.com