CBZ boss retires or pushed out over Grace Mugabe diamond ring?

Never Nyemudzo

GROUP chief executive officer of CBZ Holdings Mr Never Nyemudzo is now on leave pending his retirement on December 31, 2017 amid reports he has paid the price for being entangled in the diamond ring saga involving First Lady Grace Mugabe.

In a statement yesterday, CBZ said Mr Peter Zimunya, who is the managing director of CBZ Bank, will take over as acting CEO with immediate effect. Sources in banking circles said the recent government reshuffle is causing tremors in most private sector companies in which government is a shareholder.

CBZ is the largest financial services provider in Zimbabwe, ahead of FBC Bank, Barclays Bank Zimbabwe, Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe and Standard Chartered Zimbabwe. CBZ Bank’s total assets are valued at over US$1.22 billion with shareholders’ equity of approximately US$160.7 million. Zimbabwe government is the second largest shareholder with 16 percent shareholding followed by the Libyan Foreign Bank which has 14 percent stake.

Sources said the appointment of Ignatious Chombo as Finance Minister and Patrick Zhuwao was the nail on the coffin for the baby-face looking banker. The source also said, Grace Mugabe team are looking to have unfattered access into CBZ and NSSA cash in her campaign to succeed her husband Robert Mugabe. NSSA leads a host of smaller shareholders in CBZ and it now falls under newly appointed Labour Minister Patrick Zhuwao.

“The CBZ Holdings Limited Board of Directors announces that Never Nyemudzo will be retiring from the Group with effect from 31 December 2017, after three years as Group Chief Executive Officer,” said the firm.

“In the meantime and with immediate effect, Never Nyemudzo will proceed on leave and Peter Zimunya will assume the role of Acting Group Chief Executive Officer. Peter Zimunya is currently the Managing Director for CBZ Bank Limited.

Controversial Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe bought a diamond ring worth US$1,3 million from a Lebanese diamond dealer, Jamal Ahmed, in Dubai last year. The deal has however gone sour after President Robert Mugabe’s wife decided she no longer wanted the ring and is now demanding a refund.

Explaining the background of the case Ahmed said; “Sometime in April 2015, (Grace Mugabe) the 2ndRespondent placed an order for a diamond with my daughter in Dubai which she indicated her husband wanted to buy her for their anniversary.”

According to court documents filed with the Courts, Grace paid for the ring in full using a Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe account and US$1,350,000 was wired to Dubai. After the ring was delivered Grace decided she did not want it and demanded her money back.

In response the dealer, who has homes in Harare, explained that he had paid for the ring to a third party and needed time to raise the money. Grace was having none of this and demanded that the money is paid into her Dubai account. That’s when the trouble started.

Ahmed maintains “any refund would have to be done in Harare through the account from which the original funds had come as a refund in Dubai could easily be seen as an externalisation of funds and I did not want to be party to anything that would appear illegal.”

“The Board acknowledges Never’s leadership and service to the Group, having joined the Group in 2008 as the Group Finance Director and his subsequent appointment as Group Chief Executive Officer in 2014. Never created immense value as he continued with the growth of the Company to its current position of being the leading financial institution in Zimbabwe.”

Mr Nyemudzo, who takes a bow three years after taking up the post, replaced former CEO Dr John Mangudya who was appointed Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor on May 1, 2014. He also holds a Bachelor of Accountancy degree from University of Zimbabwe. CBZ Holdings in the country’s biggest financial institution by assets.

“As the diamond was not readily available, it had to be sourced from a third party who wanted to be paid upfront and when this was advised to the 2nd Respondent, she indicated that she was in Singapore and could not immediately pay and that we could pay on her behalf in Harare and she would refund the amount. This was done.”

“Thereafter, and with her approval, the diamond had to be polished by a third party who also needed to be paid and again we made this payment on the basis that she would refund these payments as she authorised the polishing by a third party.

“Upon her return to Harare, the 2nd Respondent instructed CBZ BANK to attend to the transfer of the US$1,350,000.00 (one million three hundred and fifty thousand United States dollars), being the purchase price for the finished diamond, which amount took time to transfer as it had become difficult to transfer money out of Zimbabwe. The transfer was ultimately done in 2016 and the diamond was tendered to the 2nd Respondent in Dubai.”

“Surprisingly, the 2nd Respondent then refused to take delivery of the diamond and instead demanded a full refund in Dubai,” Ahmed explained in his court papers. He says despite offering a payment plan the First Lady has proceeded to seize his three properties.