South African Businessman Arrested In Zimbabwe Over Harava Solar Project Dispute
15 August 2021
A South African businessman was arrested last week in Zimbabwe over a contractual dispute involving $1m (R14.66m) and material for the construction of the Harava Solar Park.
George Beukes, 47, of eXess Africa, was taken by police detectives when he landed at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo on August 3. He told TimesLIVE:
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I slept in a holding cell in Bulawayo. [The] next day a detective from Marondera collected me … when a case was opened against me.
After spending a night at a Bulawayo remand prison cell, Beukes was to Marondera where he spent another night. There, a case of fraud was opened.
He was taken to Chitungwiza the following day and has since appeared in court charged with fraud.
Court papers say Beukes was granted Z$15,000 (about R1,800) bail with stringent conditions. His passport was forfeited, and he can’t leave Zimbabwe.
He is alleged to have defrauded Harava Solar Park, which is partly owned by Invest Solar Africa (58%), a holding company associated with businessmen George Manyere and Jayesh Shah with direct links to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Old Mutual owns 28% and minority shareholdings are held by Ainos Ngadya and the Seke Community Trust.
It is alleged Beukes stole steel pipes, structures and fencing, which he insisted belonged to his company.
Mnangagwa was due to commission the project later this month but will be forced to postpone the commissioning because the deal turned bad when, in late 2019, Soventix SA stopped paying eXess Africa for installation of 6MW and a substation.
During negotiations, it was agreed that eXess Africa would continue with the work and would recover its money from Harava Solar Park.
Still, no payment came from Harava Solar Park. In March, eXess approached the High Court of Zimbabwe for the liquidation of Harava Solar Park in a bid to regain what was due to them. Said the company in court papers:
Harava Solar Park owes eXess Africa over $1m for the construction of the solar project. eXess is also owed money for steel structures.
In turn, Manyere accused Beukes and eXess Africa of stealing material meant for the construction of the project.