Responding to reports on the E340 million Ecsponent Limited scandal in eSwatini, Global Fintech Entrepreneur, Dave Van Niekerk, denied ever being part of Ecsponent, saying he was neither a director nor part of the management of the company.

He argued that he was not in any way involved with the Ecsponent Group of companies and its holding company, Ecsponent Limited (now Afristrat Limited or “Afristrat”).

Ecsponent Limited was an investment company where Swazis invested hundreds of millions of Emalangeni and was eventually sold for next to nothing – E1. The Investment firm stopped operating because it could no longer pay its investors back. Numerous investors lost their money, leading to panic and frenzy all over the country. As much as E340 million is believed to have been lost. As things stand, there is a pending court case where investors are demanding their money back.

In the widely circulated statement, Van Niekerk said Ecsponent eSwatini has, at all material times, been owned by one George Manyere as a shareholder and director of MHMK Group Limited with 100% shareholding of ESW Investment Group Limited.

The statement revealed that all decisions were taken by the board of directors of Ecsponent and that no investment decision was taken by the board without the approval and input of Manyere. All investors’ funds were lent and advanced to the Ecsponent Group or its investee companies (which included Getbucks Eswatini) with substantial returns in line with the credit model of Ecsponent Limited, Van Niekerk said.

Dave Van Niekerk.

“That company has at all times been controlled by George Manyere – a shareholder and Director of MHMK Group Limited which now holds 100% of the shares of ESW and owns GetBucks Eswatini,” he said in a statement.

He added that recouping some of the money would require taking control of Getbucks eSwatini where, according to him, some of the money was invested. And Getbucks eSwatini is a subsidiary of ESW Investment Group Limited.

It was clear in Niekerk’s statement that he pointed an accusing finger at Manyere, a name that would ordinarily arouse the interest of media and anyone interested or following the Ecsponent story. Quite strangely, it did not. In fact little, if at all, is known about him and his involvement (or lack thereof) in the matter.

But who is George Manyere? Manyere is a Zimbabwean national, entrepreneur, and investment banker with significant experience in mergers and acquisitions deals in Zimbabwe and sub-Saharan Africa. He is currently a Non-Executive Director at ESW Investment Group (formerly Ecsponent Limited).

In June this year, Manyere was a subject of controversy in Botswana where the media in that country quoted him making clarification in a matter that involved him and his alleged failure to honour a deal with a former partner – banker and marketing specialist Douglas Mamvura.

In Zimbabwean, The Herald newspaper reported that Mamvura had accused Manyere of failure to pay US$ 4 million to the former as proceeds for the sale of shares in an investment company they co-owned. The publication had quoted a letter of demand that paints Manyere as an untrustworthy partner with a questionable character.

Through his lawyer Robin Tanyanyiwa of Tanyanyiwa and Associates, Mamvura is threatening legal action against Mr Manyere, if he does not give him his alleged share of the proceeds. He claims to have gotten nothing out of the deal, claims that Manyere has denied.

According to a letter of demand seen by The Herald, the two businessmen co-founded Brainworks Investments which then bought shares from Premier Finance Group Limited for US$2 830 964 after obtaining a bank loan from BancABC Zimbabwe.

The purpose of the loan was to finance the acquisition of 28 percent shareholding in the then Premier Finance Group Limited,” reported The Herald.

“Unbeknown to our client, in April 2009, you both proceeded to fraudulently secure further funding from BancABC Zimbabwe to the tune of US$ 670 369.81, after fraudulently misrepresenting to BankABC Zimbabwe that additional facility was from the purchase of an additional 10 percent in Premier Finance Group Limited which purchase never occurred,” read a letter of demand by Tanyanyiwa and Associates, as quoted in the media report.

However, the MHMK Group Founder and CEO, George Manyere, rubbished these reports, according to the Botswana Guardian Sun report.

                                                                       George Manyere.

Back in 2021, The Zimbabwe Mail reported that The Bank of Zambia (BoZ) had ordered Manyere to exit from both controlling shareholding and directorship in the fintech company, MyBucks, after allegedly violating banking rules.

It is reported that The BoZ believed Manyere’s actions and his counterpart, Barkat Ali, were detrimental to the stakeholders of MyBucks Zambia after the duo allegedly guaranteed a sum of US$10 million in favour of Ever Prosperous in exchange for an asset purportedly valued at US$5 million that was to be acquired at a later date.

Read the report, in part:

“The view of the Bank is that the transaction was irrational and failed to satisfy the requirement that it was done in the ordinary course of business of MyBucks. These actions constitute unsafe and unsound practices as defined by section 2 of the Banking and Financial Services Act (BFSA).”

According to the report, The BoZ found Manyere not to be fit and proper to be a shareholder and director of a financial services provider.

In eSwatini, Manyere used to be part of Ecsponent Limited (now ESW Investment Group, after the business was acquired for E1). Manyere has interests in a group of companies that fall under the Mauritian-registered company, MHMK Group Limited (“MHMK Group”).

This group has links to entities including ESW Investment Group in Eswatini, Finclusion Private Limited (with a stake at Getbucks Eswatini, Ligagu Investments Eswatini, and Getsure Eswatini). MHMK Group Limited is wholly owned by The George Manyere’s Children’s Trust.

The Ecsponent issue is currently with the courts of eSwatini, where investors are demanding their investments back. As the court processes unfold, the public awaits to understand the men and/or women whose names are mentioned in the whole matter.

Already, speculations have been rife that there is a lot of blame-shifting and refusals to take responsibility on the part of those who were involved. Also, it can be argued that the industry regulator as well as the government in the kingdom have not been as aggressive and decisive in addressing this matter.