AS controversial Zanu PF politician and gold dealer, Pedzisai “Scott” Sakupwanya, was spending big hosting former world heavyweight boxing champion, Floyd Mayweather Jnr, there was an outpouring of anger over his company’s mining operations in Manicaland province.
In Harare’s Mabvuku high-density suburb, where Sakupwanya whisked away Mayweather as a crowning moment in his election campaign to land the area’s parliamentary seat, many residents were bemused by Sakupwanya’s unbridled penchant for spending big by bringing a person in their neighbourhood they said they had little to no attachment with.
Sakupwanya is alleged to have used over US$1 million to host the retired former boxing champion, whose nom de guerre is “Money”.
Reports say Mayweather’s booking fee for any appearance is in the starting range of US$500 000 to US$749 000 before other expenses.
Sakupwanya was earlier this year named as one of the country’s biggest gold barons by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ambassador-at-Large Uebert Angel in an Al Jazeera four-episode documentary Gold Mafia, which alleged massive gold smuggling and money laundering in Zimbabwe.
On his arrival in the country, Mayweather was taken to Mabvuku and was later hosted at a five star hotel in the capital at a dinner where only local business people were invited.
Speaking on the sidelines of Mayweather’s Mabvuku visit, Sakupwanya said he had fulfilled his promise to bring the boxer.
“I had promised them the boxer and it had been two years, but today, he is here,” Sakupwanya briefly said.
However, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), led by James Mupfumi, said there was nothing to celebrate as Sakupwanya’s Betterbrands company mining operations in Penhalonga, north of Mutare city in Manicaland, had caused untold suffering to communities.
The mine was closed early this year by government following reports of at least 100 people dying at the mine since 2020.
Betterbrands has, however, since resumed operations at the mine.
Mupfumi yesterday accused Betterbrands of living large while neglecting communities where it is mining.
“It is disheartening to see Betterbrands, a gold mining company based in Penhalonga, living a lavish lifestyle without showing any concern for the affected community,” Mupfumi said.
“The company seems to be focused on their own prosperity, while the local communities are suffering.
“There has been a sustained campaign by CRD to hold to account over the deaths in Penhalonga, mineral leakages and environmental degradation, gold smuggling, lack of transparency. All these have been given a blind eye by the government.”
Penhalonga residents, CRD and other civic groups have been protesting against Betterbrands to stop mining operations in the area.
Centre for Natural Resources and Governance director Farai Maguwu said it was regrettable that Betterbrans was not ploughing back into the community where it is getting its riches.
“Extraction of gold by Sakupwanya in Penhalonga has brought with it a high death rate, accelerated environmental degradation and social conflict,” Maguwu said.
“He is indebted in Penhalonga community whose lives are being seriously affected by his activities.
“To then spend money he is extracting from Penhalonga on an American millionaire is a case of misplaced priorities and indifference to the suffering of the people affected by his activities.”
Political and social analyst Tendai Reuben Mbofana said Sakupwanya was a reflection of how political elites were detached from reality.
“What we are witnessing is a symptom of the greater detachment of those in the ruling party from poverty and suffering to those they purport to lead,” Mbofana said.
“Because of the detachment, he does not have any problems flashing the money. The people of Mabvuku will be left with nothing, the money (given to Mayweather) could have been used to build clinics, schools and drilling boreholes.”
Political analyst Effie Ncube said such levels of extravagance in the face of high levels of poverty, hunger and unemployment were regrettable.
“It is callous and deeply despicable. Besides, it demonstrates that for some being in Parliament and government has become an industry as it connects to looting with impunity; no wonder why they stop at nothing to win office,” Ncube said.
Another political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said this also exposes misguided priorities of the ruling elites.
“They are more concerned with ratings rather than realities. Mabvuku residents have urgent needs, not cheap motivational sermons,” he said.
Mayweather is not the first American to be brought up by Sakupwanya.
Last year, the gold dealer flew in rapper Rick Ross, born William Leonard Roberts II, for a show at the Harare International Conference Centre. Ross was reportedly hired for US$200 000. — NewsDay