The drama continues in the long-running James Makamba case with reports that the Empowerment Corporation (EC) last week staged a boardroom coup to oust the embattled business tycoon from the chairmanship of Telecel Zimbabwe and replaced him with Silas Hungwe.

Hungwe, is the president of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) which is also a member of the EC. The EC is a consortium of indigenous entrepreneurs with a controlling stake (60 percent) in the mobile cellular phone operator whose licence was granted by Cabinet in 1997. The licence was granted for political considerations under the banner of black empowerment and wealth creation. Telecel International, a foreign firm, owns the remaining 40 percent.

Makamba, the former ZANU PF chairman for Mashonaland Central and central committee member, is a founding member and chairman of Telecel Zimbabwe. The prominent entrepreneur was arrested on February 9 on allegations of externalising billions of dollars in foreign currency and is still incarcerated under the anti-graft crusade in the financial and business sectors initiated by President Robert Mugabe.

Impeccable sources close to the developments last week said that EC members including representatives from the ZFU, National Miners Association of Zimbabwe (NMAZ), Magamba eChimurenga and Integrated Engineering Group held a meeting last Thursday and replaced the beleaguered Makamba arguing that the changes were unavoidable in the face of his arrest.

Leo Mugabe, President Mugabe’s nephew, who is fighting to reclaim a long disputed 10 percent stake in Telecel, was said to be at the meeting. Absent from the meeting were representatives from the Indigenous Business Women’s Organisation (IBWO) and Makamba’s Kestrel Corporation. EC’s secretary-general Giles Munyoro confirmed Makamba’s "ouster" saying it was precipitated by his arrest.

"We held the meeting last week and replaced Makamba with Hungwe," Munyoro, also the president of the NMAZ said. "We have provisionally appointed Jane Mutasa as the vice pending her sentence in court."

Munyoro said: "We gave all representatives of the EC seven days notice of the meeting. We formed a quorum and made our decision. IBWO turned down the invitation. I was re-elected secretary-general."

Financial Gazette