#Zimbabwe Communication Giant Econet Paid Staggering USD40 Million to Tawanda Nyambirai

Econet pays Nyambirai US$40m for cutting deals – The Zimbabwe Independent

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TN Holdings (now Lifestyle Holdings) founder and CEO Tawanda Nyambirai was reportedly paid a staggering US$39,9 million by the country’s leading telecoms giant Econet Wireless in September last year for securing its licence renewal and facilitating debt recovery from TelOne, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.

Kudzai Kuwaza
According to informed sources, the payment to Nyambirai by the diversified telecoms group raised eyebrows as there were reportedly a number of discrepancies in the transaction procedure, which include Econet’s alleged failure to capitalise the consultancy fee onto the licence fee as required by accounting rules.

Sources said the other irregularity was that Nyambirai used the money he received from Econet to pay its subsidiary, Steward Bank (formerly TN Bank) US$26 million to reduce his debt with the financial institution in a case which has been likened to “Peter paying Paul so that Paul can repay Peter — literally”.
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There was also concern as to why the funds from licence renewal and debt recovery consultancy were paid through TN Harlequin which specialised in furniture manufacture and retail, not consultancy.

Sources also questioned why the funds were used to clear debts for other third parties as well. They also said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe was supposed to have been suspicious of the transaction as it had a material impact on Stewart Bank’s financial position.

The sources further said it was curious why the funds did not appear in TN Harlequin accounts where they were paid and consolidated into Lifestyle Holdings books, something which raises tax issues.

The Zimbabwe Independent recently reported on Nyambirai’s facilitation of a US$30 million loan facility to government last year. Econet confirmed the involvement of its former chairman as a consultant, saying it was an arrangement whereby government took over and settled interconnection debt owed by NetOne and TelOne.

Asked on Wednesday to respond on Nyambirai’s US$39,9 million payment, Econet ducked the issue claiming it was sub judice and that the story was based on “stolen, private and confidential information” in a bid to entangle the Independent in its current dispute with Reuters-affiliated news agency, The Source, even if the paper has nothing to do with it.

The business news agency was raided last month by the Deputy Sheriff’s department following a High Court order granted to Econet and Steward Bank to have the online publication delete or expunge the stories it had published on its site.

The raid – widely condemned by the media and other stakeholders – related to two published stories in which Econet reportedly extended a US$30 million loan to the government and the other concerning flamboyant local tycoon Philip Chiyangwa’s Pinnacle Property Holdings paying a US$2,1 million debt — under-secured by US$720 000 collateral — he owed to Steward Bank using land.

Econet went to court seeking an order to seize computers and search for the documents they claimed The Source stole. The order was granted. The case is still running in the courts.

However, the information obtained by the Independent – just like on the earlier published story about the loan to which Econet responded to professionally – was gleaned from informed sources in the market, not the said stolen documents.

The enquiries sent to Econet corporate communications manager, Rangarirai Mberi, on Wednesday were as follows:

As per our telephone conversation, could you please help me with my enquiries;

We understand, according to our sources, that Mr Tawanda Nyambirai received US$39,9 million payment for his services in securing the Econet licence renewal and facilitating the recovery of debt due to Econet from Telone;

We are also informed that Mr Nyambirai used US$26 million of these funds to reduce his debt at Steward Bank. Is this true and if not what is the correct position, and

My deadline is 15 00 hrs tomorrow (April 9 2015). Your assistance will be greatly appreciated.

Econet’s response was as follows:

“As you are aware, Econet Wireless and Steward Bank approached the courts and were granted an order against The Source for the deletion and expunging from their online publication private and confidential material relating to both entities, their directors, consultants, customers or counter parties. The order also interdicted the publishing or republishing “personally or through the agency of other persons” the names of both entities’ customers and the details of their loan or credit agreements with both entities.

“In addition, the court also interdicted the publishing of “contents of email and internal memoranda or correspondence of a private nature relating to the applicants’ business or that of its customers, consultants or other counter parties.

“The basis of the provisional order was that the private correspondence had been stolen and that its publication infringed upon Econet and Steward Bank’s and their clients’, customers’ and other related parties’ rights to privacy, particularly as the banker/client relationship is based on confidentiality.

“On this basis, the court granted an order authorising the recovery of the stolen information and documents, which has since been done. An application brought by Source-Net (Pvt) Ltd in an endeavour to stay execution of the provisional order and to have it thereafter set aside was dismissed by the High Court with an order that Source-Net pay Econet and Steward Bank’s costs on a legal practitioner and client scale.

“During the recovery of the stolen, private and confidential information, it was confirmed that the stolen private and confidential information had been conveyed through the agency of two former Steward Bank executives who accessed such information in the course of their duties and who were not authorised to divulge it to unauthorised third parties, and your enquiry relates to the exact same stolen private and confidential information whose publication the court has interdicted.

“There can be no doubt that Econet and Steward Bank’s financial services advisors fall under the category of ‘consultants’ who are specifically covered by the order. “On the advice of our legal advisors, we cannot therefore provide you with answers to your questions on the basis that the matter is sub-judice in so far as the provisional order is yet to be dealt with on the return day, that your questions relate to the very same private, confidential and stolen information in respect of which there is already an interdict and both Econet and Steward Bank are unable to disregard the very privacy it sought to protect in the first instance.

“Your use of stolen, private and confidential information would also be illegal and in breach of the provisional order already referred to which interdicted the publication of the information ‘through the agency of other persons’, which includes your publication. We trust that this fully explains Econet and Steward Bank’s position”.

 

Who is Tawanda Nyambirai

A person must be motivated by the joy to provide good services and be inspired by the importance and relevance of their job or business towards the betterment of their country. This is the same kind of desire that drove one of the movers and shakers in the corporate world to become one of the top achievers in the banking and corporate finance sector. It brings to mind the words of the Nigerian Christ Embassy Pastor Chris Oyakhilome who said: “You may be a trader, cleaner, teacher, civil servant or a chief executive, no matter the job or business you do, let your goal be to render service. And that way your greatness will be inevitable.”

At 40, Mr Tawanda Nyambirai the TN Holdings boss has managed to achieve what most could have considered impossible for someone who is a lawyer by profession. How can a lawyer make a breakthrough in the complex banking sector? His secret is that of treating his customers as kings as he makes it his business to know what customers need and then reaches out to meet those needs.

He is the major shareholder in TN Holdings through his investment vehicle Nyambirai Associated Trusts. TN Holdings is the holding company for TN Financial Services (Pvt) Ltd, TN Asset Management (Pvt.) Ltd, TN Microfinance and TN Harlequin- a furniture division.

To meet people’s needs, Mr Nyambirai saw it fit to bring the banks to the people and not the other way round. That is the reason why he places most of his banks in clothing shops, furniture and grocery outlets like Greatermans and Meikles to make it more convenient for the customers. The down-to-earth father of eight would rather describe himself as ” a sinner saved by grace” as he is human and makes mistakes like any one of us. “I usually don’t like talking about my personal life as there is a temptation to talk about the good and leave out the bad. “Mostly when I say I am a Christian people tend to build an image of me and half the time they forget that I am also human like anyone else who makes mistakes.” he said. A staunch Warren Buffet fan, the TN Holdings Limited chief executive is inspired by the billionaire’s investment principles.

He however, does not believe in having a mentor because he says it tends to elevate an individual and model someone as an example that is worth being followed. “I believe in genuine friendship and fellowship from whom I can learn and who can learn from me as well. Friends do not speak down on me but they are there to encourage me,” he said. The Apostolic Faith Mission follower is motivated by the desire to change lives and assist the less privileged and make others avoid the pitfalls he fell into. Mr Nyambirai is motivated by love and focuses more on what he wants tomorrow to be like.

“I’m not building a business for today but I am modeling it in what I want to see it being tomorrow. As other banks are retrenching I am actually going against the grain as I am recruiting people because I know that the future of banking needs one to have skilled staff,” he said.

Challenges are not meant to destroy you, they are meant to groom you and it takes self-confidence, discipline and focus to be an achiever, said the staunch Dynamos supporter.

Mr Nyambirai said that during the hyperinflation era many Zimbabweans lived like there was no tomorrow but on their part they remained conservative and knew that there was a tomorrow that required them to work hard. The lawyer-cum-businessman who was born in the farming community of Lalapanzi did his primary and secondary education in Chiungura in Gutu and A-Levels at Chibi High School. He went on to attain a law degree at the University of Zimbabwe in 1992 and he also holds a certificate in International Conflict Resolution studies from the University of Uppsala in Sweden. Mr Nyambirai comes from a broken family of 16 and is happily married to Ketty Nyambirai.

Mr Nyambirai described 2010 as a “good and blessed” year for him and his organisation as he was named the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Harare regional and national businessman of the year award. His company was also awarded the best commercial exhibitioner at the Harare Agricultural Show. In December last year, Mr Nyambirai won an international prize in Geneva, Switzerland, known as the Platinum Technology award for quality and best trade name.

He also got a “special award” from Tsitsi and Strive Masiyiwa for being an individual who was most supportive of the charitable activities they carry out. The successful businessman reflects with a lot of pride to the law practice that he built since it delivered value to his clients who still have fond memories of him.

Mr Nyambirai said he was particularly proud of his achievement as part of the legal team that successful led NMB Bank to dually list on the Zimbabwe and London Stock Exchanges.

He said that he managed to create a thriving bank because he had been patient for eight years since 2001 and put all his strength in building a bank that will not be short of capital.

“From humble beginnings in 2001 TN Financial Services offered advisory services and we used it as a platform to build capital to start a bank. “We preserved the capital and kept little in cash therefore suffered little losses during hyperinflation,” he said. TN Bank was among some of the banks that satisfied Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe minimum capital requirements way before the deadline last year.

He added that in a few years his bank expected to have one of the largest branch networks in the country as they were expecting to have more than 32 branches and most of these will be in Econet and Meikles shops by June this year.

I’m no Masiyiwa front

TN Holdings founder and chief executive, Tawanda Nyambirai has insisted that he is “his own man”, dismissing speculation that he was a front for thenon- telecoms business interests of South Africa-based mogul, Strive Masiyiwa.

Nyambirai founded TN Financial Holdings in 2001 and engineered the group’s listing on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange in 2010 through the reverse take-over of furniture manufacturer and retailer, Tedco Limited.

In addition, Nyambirai also chairs the Zimbabwe operations of Masiyiwa’s Econet Wireless while the telecoms entrepreneur has also become a key shareholder in the fast-expanding TN Holdings.

However, while admitting that it would be an honour to be a “front” for Masiyiwa, Nyambirai insisted that this was not the case.

“If there is anybody I would love to front for it is Strive Masiyiwa … it would be an honour,” Nyambirai said in an interview.

“Masiyiwa (is) an honest, generous, kind and humble man. He declared that his first (Econet Wireless) dividend after profit would go to charity and when he realized it he did just that and I personally distributed the money and would manage it for him and give it to charity so I know he kept his word … he has educated over 40 000 orphans in Zimbabwe.

“So for people to say I am a front for him is a compliment and a privilege! But he is a shareholder and he is known and cited everywhere in the records as a shareholder at TN.

“People who do fronting deals do not do that. They are unknown in the background as the fronts play the role of owner. He would have been in the shadows.”

Nyambirai said Masiyiwa became a key shareholder in TN Holdings after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) ruled that bank executives could not be controlling shareholders of institutions they are supposed to be running.

“When the RBZ said I should dilute my shareholding I asked myself who the best person to partner with would be and I thought ‘Strive!” Nyambirai said.

“I was humbled and honoured when he had the confidence in me and my business to buy the shareholding. I am my own man and I have a shareholder in Strive whom I greatly admire!”

He also said TN Holdings was awaiting regulatory approval for the establishment of a cattle bank, a first for Zimbabwe. The proposed bank would allow farmers and individuals to use their stock as collateral when accessing credit.

“At the moment we are moving through the regulatory corridors,” he said.

“Steps are being taken, we have people all over the country talking to people, telling how they view it if we launch a cattle bank and the outcome is amazing.

“What is overwhelming is that it is not only rural people who are enthusiastic about the idea but also urban people.

“We have people living and working in the city who also have cattle in their rural homes as wealth and assets and they are very interested in the concept.”

Nyambirai said although significant progress had been made in improving operating conditions for business, the lack of liquidity remained a huge challenge.

“We operate in an environment and the major characteristic is illiquidity. We are operating in an illiquid market and whatever we do, we have to deal with that challenge,” he said.

“The way it affects us is there is more demand for credit than cash and very little cash is available. We have had to come up with strategies to deal with that problem and we seem to be winning.”

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