King Mswati, Edgar Lungu and the Inyatsi syndicate

BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI (Investigative journalist)

JOHANNESBURG: King Mswati and Zambian President Edgar Lungu are linked to a powerful syndicate that involves Inyatsi Director Michelo Shakantu, the late businessman Victor Gamedze and Swaziland’s Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini. This comes in midst of reports suggesting that President Edgar Lungu received land as a gift from King Mswati and a multi-million mansion worth about $4million(R45millon will be constructed at Nkonyeni, Ezulwini in a land previously owned by Inyatsi Properties. This is a company under Inyatsi Group Holdings that also operates in three separate divisions in Zambia being Inyatsi Construction Ltd, Inyatsi Roads and Inyatsi Buildings Ltd. Independent investigation by this publication uncovered that just like in the Kingdom of eSwatini, Inyatsi is one of the major beneficiaries of construction tenders by the government of Zambia since Edgar Lungu took over as President. As a result the civil society in that country demands answers regarding the alleged “gift” and source of funding for the construction of the President’s mansion worth millions. Speaking to this Swaziland News publication McDonald Chipenzi, the Executive Director of the Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Service (GEARS) Initiative Zambia said there was no doubt that President Lungu betrayed the trust of the Zambian citizens.

“President Edgar Lungu betrayed the trust of the Zambian citizens in his discharge of his presidential duties. The President travels not on his own but on express permission of the Zambian citizens and also as an institution whose decorum should be in respect of the citizens and sovereignty of the Republic and legal regime existing in country” he said. The land previously owned by Inyatsi Properties in Swaziland and presented to Lungu as a “gift” by King Mswati raised allegations of corruption on whether the President was not rewarded for the multi-million tenders in Zambia won by Inyatsi Construction.

King Mswati, an absolute Monarch with a documented history of evicting poor Swazis from their own land mysteriously presented land as a gift to a President of another country whose relationship with him remains questionable. King Mswati enjoys relations with other dictatorship both in Africa and around the world known for corruption, looting State resources and laundering money to other countries and one of them being President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, whose son Teodorin Nguema travels with millions to eSwatini and the family reportedly owns properties in the country.

But the governments of the two vigorously disputed allegations that the land might be a corrupt benefit from Inyatsi. Dora Siliya, the Zambian Information Minister described controversy surrounding the land previously owned by Inyatsi as normal practice, however our investigations in Zambia suggests that President is currently under pressure regarding the undeclared gifts that amounts to millions. "These are normal practices when the president travels, that various gifts are given in various forms. In this case it was land that was given to the president. This land was processed and given to the president in title," Siliya was quoted as saying by Lusaka Times.

On the other hand Swazi government Spokesperson Percy Simelane describes the matter as private. "The purchase of land to build a family house for president Lungu is a private issue” he said. But MacDonald, the GEARS Executive Director told this publication that in the absence of proof that King Mswati and Edgar Lungu were friends before the former became President, then the sentiments of Simelane describing such as a private matter does not hold any water. “ President Lungu and the King have not been private friends prior to his presidency unless we are proved to the contrary. Therefore, President Lungu’s failure to declare the controversial “gift” to the Nation displays his dishonest and insincerity in the handle of State, government and the national issue” he said

Efforts to seek a comment from Inyatsi Executive Director Michelo Shakantu proved unsuccessful as he was called several times in vain on his mobile phone. An independent investigation uncovered that Shakantu who doubles as the Executive Chairman at Swazi Mobile enjoys ties with King Mswati and President Edgar Lungu and he has been spotted on numerous occasions with Head of States. Around the year 2017, Shakantu and the late Swaziland’s powerful businessman Victor Gamedze, a founding director of Swazi Mobile held series of meetings with King Mswati and Edgar Lungu and soon thereafter reports emerged that plans to establish a similar cellphone company in Zambia were discussed.

Swazi Mobile Limited, a cell phone company that was incorporated in the Kingdom of Eswatini on the 13th May 2016 won a mobile license on 29 December 2016 beating other experienced international companies being Mauritius Telecom and Viettel Group from Vietnam. The process of awarding the licence was marred by allegations of corruption that were never investigated by the law enforcement agencies due to the alleged involvement the King in the process. The then powerful businessman Victor Gamedze started making arrangements to commence operations of the company even before the company was granted a licence and sources revealed that he knew the process would be in his favor due to Swazi Mobile’s links with King Mswati. Indeed, before the company went live around July 2017, Michelo Shakantu, the Inyatsi boss and Victor Gamedze went to meet King Mswati and even took pictures that were later published by the Swazi Observer (see pictures in the diagram).

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper owned by the King that was leading in promoting the mobile company before Gamedze’s death, reported that King Mswati who was pictured making the first call had endorsed Swazi Mobile. Sources in the corridors of power revealed that shortly after the series of meeting between the King and the Swazi Mobile Directors, with President Edgar Lungu frequenting the Kingdom of eSwatini, Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini through the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology (ICT) was then given the task to stop the enactment of the then Infrastructure Company Bill that was to allow the Swaziland Post and Telecommunication Corporation (SPTC), a State owned company to compete in the mobile industry. The suggestion what allowing a third mobile company would reduce the market share and might force Swazi Mobile to close. As a result, ICT Minister Dumsani Ndlangamandla appointed Dr Tambo Gina, the Non-Executive Director at Inyatsi as SPTC Chairman allegedly to promote and protect the interest of Swazi Mobile in dealings with SPTC. Gina acts as a link between Inyatsi, SPTC and Swazi Mobile (see diagram). On the other hand, Minister Ndlangamandla also links with Inyatsi and Swazi Mobile; he receives huge monies through a company disguised through his wife known as Siyagijima Association that subcontracts at Inyatsi. The syndicate also involves Bhekithemba Gama who was strategically appointed to the position to protect the interest of the PM, King Mswati and the entire Inyatsi syndicate that links Swazi Mobile in the communications industry. Gama, who signed the letter that closed then Swaziland Shopping, a newspaper that exposed Victor Gamedze, King Mswati and Swazi Mobile corrupt dealings.

Bhekithemba Gama is the husband of Fikile Dlamini- Gama, the daughter of the Prime Minister whose company Peocock Transport subcontracts at Inyatsi. Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini as the head of the Swazi government that award tenders to Inyatsi Construction never declared that his company Peacock Transport (PTY) LTD was a beneficiary at Inyatsi through business contracts. The Prevention of Corruption Act describes this, as conflict of interest but law enforcement agencies in Swaziland never investigated the matter. Bhekithemba Gama, who is tasked with speaking to the media by the government failed to respond to questions from this publication regarding the secret dealings that links him, ICT Ministry and the Prime Minister with the Inyatsi and Swazi Mobile syndicate.

But sources revealed that Gama, Victor Gamedze and the PM met at the Cabinet offices before the PS signed the letter closing the newspaper that was consistently exposing the syndicate. A voice telephone recording that links Michello and Victor Gamedze made at Swazi Mobile building suggests that the two discussed the matter of the newspaper after it was exposed that they meet with the King before Parliament was stopped from debating the provisions of the Infrastructure Company Bill that was to liberalize the industry.

“Ye Mich, awubuye ke utolalela lomfana losetfukako kutsi sewutsini nyalo sewuye emaphoyiseni(meaning: Mich, come and listen to the boy who has been insulting us, he has reported me to the police)” said Victor Gamedze in the intercepted voice recording. The conversation came after Gamedze issued death threats to this reporter for exposing the corruption in the establishment of Swazi Mobile, this journalist subsequently went to the police over the threats but no action was taken. Instead, the government through the Ministry of ICT responded by shutting down the publication, this journalist subsequently fled to exile after the death from the syndicate escalated with the people given orders to arrest. Information gathered suggests that Gamedze was a member of huge syndicate that involves Inyatsi and the more he was exposed, his dealings that involved King Mswati, Inyatsi and President Lungu were affected. Documented facts reveal that Inyatsi Group Holdings that operates in the SADC region is dominated by a team of powerful individuals that include Dr Tambo Gina from Swaziland, Michelo Shakantu, the Executive Director, John Hamilton, the Group Managing Director, Derrick Shiba, the Swaziland Managing Director and Tommy Straydom, the Group Chief Executive Officer among others. Victor Gamedze also benefited from the syndicate through a sponsorship for Mbabane Swallows, the team’s soccer kits has been displaying Inyatsi logo for the past years.

At SPTC, the interests of Inyatsi Executive Director Shakantu who also owns Swazi Mobile are protected by Dr Gina and Muzi Dlamini, the Prime Minister’s son whose Peacock Transport benefits millions at Inyatsi through business contracts. Swazi Mobile outsource some communication services that include an international gatway from SPTC and the syndicate has been accused of rendering the State owned company almost non-functional to protect their interest in the mobile industry. The decision by President Lungu to own a property in the Kingdom eSwatini came in the midst of controversy regarding his relationship between King Mswati that links Swazi Mobile Directors.