3 February 2012

Zimbabwe: Chiyangwa Salutes Mangoma

FLAMBOYANT businessman, Phillip Chiyangwa, whose interests span from property, manufacturing, engineering and tourism, this week spoke glowingly about how Energy and Power Development Minister, Elton Mangoma, financed his enterprises 18 years ago, calling him "a very important person of my life".

Chiyangwa, a staunch supporter of ZANU-PF, told The Financial Gazette's Companies & Markets this week that Mangoma, now a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) minister, was among the people he respected most in Zimbabwe.

"He gave me a Standard Chartered Bank cheque of Z$18 000 at the time," Chiyangwa said.

"He saw and responded to an advertisement I had placed in the press looking for finance. I was a trader then. He drove to my office in a Toyota Cressida. He was general manager at Chibuku Breweries then," said Chiyangwa.

"I am who I am today partly because of Mangoma. We have come a long way. Mangoma remains an important person of my life. He saw me from being nobody to somebody. He is so principled; he could have told everyone that I assisted Chiyangwa. We are also good friends with Biti. He was my lawyer for a very long time. Biti also saw me from being nobody to somebody. Their political affiliations are their democratic rights, but we remain friends," said the businessman, who through his Native Investment Africa Group owns a number of listed and non-listed companies.

These include the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed ZECO Holdings, an engineering business; Pinnacle Property Holdings and Tsivo Holdings Limited through which he owns Glory Car Hire, a big player in the tourism industry.

But his relations with Biti have not been rosy since the top lawyer was appointed Finance Minister on an MDC-T ticket in 2009.

After implementing far reaching reforms for the tourism industry during a mid-term fiscal policy review last year, Biti angered Chiyangwa, who felt some of the policies were targeted at his tourism ventures.

If there is one thing the Native Investments Africa Group executive chairman is good at, apart from knowing the art of making money, it is knowing how and when to defend his turf.

Biti touched a raw nerve after scrapping a duty free facility that allowed players in the tourism sector to bring vehicles into the country duty free, effective September 1, 2010.

The Finance Minister said then the programme had been abused by operators who were importing vehicles for personal use and for their "small houses" - street lingo for concubines.

"If I feel the business is becoming so noisy and stupid, I can opt out and people will lose jobs," Chiyangwa told Companies & Markets in reaction to the scrapping of the duty-free window then.

"Nobody should play around with my money. You (Biti) haven't succeeded in anything and (yet) you (want to) tell me how to do things?"

Biti, considered to be one of the country's top legal minds, made his name as a lawyer. He is also the MDC-T's secretary-general and a potential contender to the presidency of the party, currently led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

He was appointed Finance Minister in February 2009 following the consummation of the inclusive government between ZANU-PF and the two MDC formations.

While Chiyangwa's business empire is predominantly property and engineering, the former ZANU-PF chairman for Mashonaland West has diversified his interests in the hospitality sector.

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