In June, one of the country’s leading business newspapers, the Financial Gazette, ran a story in which it said Zimbabwe had deported a British tycoon, Kenneth Vincent Grant Coker, who was now threatening to take his $100 billion investment to Zambia.
The story should have rung alarm bells first with the reporter, then the sub-editors and finally the editors. $100 billion, even if spread over five to seven years as the story said, is not a joke. Even a $100 million investment would have been fantastic news for Zimbabwe.
To invest $100 billion in seven years, meant ploughing in $14 billion a year on average or $20 billion on average over five years.
The largest single investment so far proposed for Zimbabwe is $4.2 billion but analysts are skeptical about the figure even though this will be spread over a number of years.
The story, which was picked up by several online publications, raises two important questions.
The first is that while Zimbabwe is open for business, it should never be open to crooks.
The second is that the media, as the watchdog for society, has a critical role to play in assessing who is investing or planning to invest in the country, now that it is open for business and is too eager to welcome anyone who claims to have money.
If the Financial Gazette had done a simple Google search on Coker, it would have discovered that Newsday wrote a story four years ago saying Coker had been nabbed by immigration officials for entering into a marriage of convenience with a United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean, Marian Mandizvidza nee Katsande who was 27 years his junior so that he could legalise his stay in Zimbabwe.
According to that story, the Coker and Mandizvidza were already married in the UK, but pretended to be single in Zimbabwe when they applied for a Zimbabwean marriage licence.
It appeared Coker had done Mandizvidza a favour so that she could get a British visa, now Mandizvidza wanted to return the favour so that Coker could also get a permit to live and work in Zimbabwe.
Coker, the story said, registered a construction company under the name Advanced Property Developers alongside a Zimbabwean director Michael Besileni.
Coker was also said to have been appointed a director of Pendcald Enterprises, whose other directors were his purported wife Marian Mandizvidza and Masimba Mandizvidza.
According to immigration officials, Coker was “a failed investor from the onset of the project”. His company did not have a bank account, but Coker had a personal account with the Bank of Scotland.
Four years down the line, this was the same man that was threatening to pull out his $100 billion planned investment in Zimbabwe elsewhere.
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