“ZESA Corruption Prevented Me From Solving Zim’s Electricity Shortage” – Strive Masiyiwa

Econet Wireless Group founder and chairman, Strive Masiyiwa has shared how he once tried to solve Zimbabwe’s power problem with a US $250 million project that would add 500MW of power to Zimbabwe’s national grid.

According to him, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe wanted to do it in order to ensure adequate power for its telecoms base stations.

Why I hate corruption!

In about 2007, as Zimbabwe lurched into hyperinflation, and foreign currency disappeared, our local management were faced with a big, big problem:

Electrical power!

The cell phone network is one of the biggest single consumer of electricity in the country. Over 10MW distributed nationally.

Base stations were collapsing, and service was degrading on a daily basis.

The management travelled to SA to meet the board and discuss an emergency solution:

We brought in experts including many former engineers of the national power company [ZESA] to try and understand what could be done.

There is no problem without a solution, if you bring in the right people!

Finally we came up with a plan, and we asked the CEO of Econet Zimbabwe to present it to the management of ZESA:

The plan would have unlocked over $250m in loans guaranteed by us, and over 500MW of power. It would have seen the country able to build new facilities.

The response from the ZESA management [at the time] was scandalous!

Totally scandalous!

They told us:

“since you are not popular with government, they will not listen to you. Let’s form a private company with some of our own executives, and you can lend money to that company secretly!”

One even proposed his brother as a director of such a company!

I was stunned when I heard.

Next we approached the power regulator, and asked for an independent license to produce power. They told us that they had already given licenses to people who had not built, so they could not issue another license, even though they appreciated, we could build!

And guess what?!

The politically connected guys who had licenses were then tipped off, and they came rushing to see us, with the most ludicrous corrupt proposals:

“You provide 100% funding, and give me 51% for free” one demanded.

One guy even flew to SA in a bid to see me personally!

I refused to even see him!

Our board withdrew the efforts, and we just gritted our teeth to weather the storm.

We were forced to shut down large sections of our network.


Strive’s comments come as Econet wireless suffered a network outage that last almost the entire day. The network outage was caused by load shedding and the company’s backup power systems failing to work at the time of changeover. Zimbabweans have noted how the outage has drawn attention to Zimbabwe’s dependency on Econet for transacting and telecommunication.

More: Techzim

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14 comments on ““ZESA Corruption Prevented Me From Solving Zim’s Electricity Shortage” – Strive Masiyiwa

  1. I am personally fed up of all this talk about corruption. Who are these bigwigs fuelling corruption. They should be exposed and the courts should order restitution. A whole nation should not be held to ransom by a few who have corruptly muscled their way to the top. That’d not what the Chimurenga war was about. Those who lost their lives to liberate us from colonial rule would agree with me.

    Guys let’s be honest with each other. Let’s not make this country unlivable for the massed. We can’t all be the president & the cabinet but those in power should make the economy good for all of us and protect the interests of the public not just themselves and their cronies.

  2. Strive in Simple just say that our Government from the Head to toe is full of corrupt people and we all afraid to confront it head on but are reluctantly watching on the terraces without anything.imagine if you had recorded all of these things exposed them of the evil ways would we be in the same scenario.but because we turn a blind eye decide to write things years later to Justify your failures to provide a service makes us wonder if truly it was loadshedding or you holding us ransom since you hold a greater chunk in the network industry.why didn’t you expose these guys from the word go.its sad as a nation that we leave in fear and continue to watch the rot going ahead.now we are able to write about the CEO because he is no longer at zesa,how much power have individuals amassed that they cannot be touched, questioned or removed from office without fear or favor.its now toooo long talking about corruption but noone has been set as an example.its sickening

  3. I hope what you are alleging is true Strive, why not name the individuals involved and shame te devil. Its true Econet was not in good books with the Zim gvt or state and even now. The proposal by ZESA mgt then seemed logical at that time given the acidic relationship between Econet and gvt as it was suspected of funding the opposition whether correct or otherwise. For a serious investor without a licence and funding the power project 100% then ceding 51% shares was in line with Zim gvt then and not necessarily due to corrupt individuals. So get your facts right ans dont rush to point fingers at the wrong entities because this was well known gvt policy.

  4. Ben Rafemoyo was the ZESA CEO during 2007 and the Board Chairman was Simba Mangwengwende after Dr Madziva resigned or was fired. Both Simba and Ben are staunch Christians just like you and you probably attend the same church or fraternity. Are you insinuating that our Christians and society leadets are that bad? Of course Ben was a proxy for one minister from Bocha while Simba was a proxy for Mupamhanga from President’s Office. Such is corruption in Zim or are we still dreaming?

    1. Nyembi, you sound like you are one of those who got a licence and did not use it. Simba was scandalously suspended early 2000 by Sydney who became executive Chairman.

  5. Strive you must have heart towards your customers in zimbabwe at large nervertheless we heard you are on a second proposal of paying 40% of debt to a Mozambique’s power utility Cahhora Bassa in Mozamboque North . We just hope and pray that such foul won’t happen again. Thank you for your care

  6. I have no kind words for you mr masiyiwa, if you came head on with corruption and you chose to protect your feed at the expense of confronting it as one of the most powerful snd most resourced people in the country then who are you really complaining and crying out to, an already starved rural teacher who has been forced to stay months on end away from a family he cant feed he left with his mother in town? What sympathy can he give you mr masiyiwa?

    1. You are spouting a lot of vutriolic nonsense. The fact that Mr Masiyiwa and Econet.chose not to engage with any of the ludicrous proposals from the ZESA and government officials shows that they did confront corruption

  7. 51% Gvt stake was A Statutory requisite yes but was that politician Gvt? And was the Gvt supposed to claim 51% stake without injecting any funds? This was pure Corruption driven by political influence that fool enjoyed.

  8. We are far too dependent on one network. Why have Vodacom/ MTN or Airtel not been given licenses. In Malawi and Tanzania, we are given a choice of networks. As much as we understand that the cartel of deep corruption exists and Econet have been at the forefront to ensure connectivity Etc , it cannot dominate the market. When you go down, the whole country virtually goes down. Doesn’t make sense

  9. I have don’t have much sympathy for Strive (although I use his network, because the others render such bad service). About 5-6 years ago there was a major World Tourism Conference in the town that I live in,. Strive pulled in with about 6 to 8 ‘non-fixed’ cell towers and spread them all over town, together with about 5 fixed towers. One of those fixed towers was raised right next to my house and I was never approached by Econet to ask if I had any objections to it being placed outside my house. Their answer was ‘ we are in a hurry, it is of national importance and we have permission from Town Council to place it here.” Corrupt??? – of course it was corrupt. Big man syndrome.

  10. You know what you people of Zimbabwe? You always fight with each other, some realise that if they agree for the socio-economy to be stable, they are going to lose many chances. So they want to do it themselves to be rich.
    One of the good examples of what I am talking about is as follows: in Karoi Town, which is my home town, venders look for the bond notes to lose value that they may get more of it; they do so for they are not farmers. Farmers who find the money cry for they use more money than they got, and these two, Venders and Farmers, are not in good terms for some say that they are using a lot of money while others want more money for their goods to be bought. All the same, we are unable to tell someboby who is getting millions of dollars per unnum to get less and give others the capacities. That is the prob we are facing with. A few people seem, to be wanting the socio-economy to be OK while a large number of business peope do not want that, whereas wanting themselves to well-off.
    Among this large number of people who want to be rich other than certain ones, are those with power that if they give permition to those who want the whole country to be economically saticified, truly the socio-economy would be viable for everybody who is dynamic. This is what I am thinking. My last words may say: brothers and sisters, do not fight for the riches, but strive together to bring more fruits for the country. Thank you.

  11. Furthermore I say: let us worship that God may come and bless our Zimbabwe as well as other countries. The prayers of faith shall raise our country up. I suppose that this may help us a lot than fighting which brings no benefits. Let everybody say alleluia as it is an accolade to the Lord.
    Only through prayers, nessicities go away from us. Amen. Try it(prayer) and you will see what God will do for you. When you make your pleas and prayers, do not forget others, even your enemies. Once you have done this, probably, God will respond to your pleas. Then God is generous; He will render you suitable for all your pertitions and supplications. Amen. Let everybody say ‘alleluia’. I praise God, wanting Him to intervene whenever our Zimbabwe is in afflictions. About what I have mentioned, I thank the Lord for his good deeds towards us. Amen.

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