An Attempt To Defend “Sir” Wicknell Chivayo’s Actions


In Zimbabwe we have a socialite called “Sir” Wicknell Chivayo who’s known for 3 things:

  1. Showing off his immense wealth and spending it (and size),
  2. being a big supporter of the ruling regime ZANU-PF and
  3. being awarded a $200 million contract for a 100MW solar farm in 2015 that has yet to be built.

Adding 1,2 and 3 together makes 6 it seem as if there was some corruption involved, especially since he didn’t even have the lowest bid and nobody knows what work he actually does1. Unfortunately, such scrutiny couldn’t convince the courts as he was found not guilty of bribery in 2021 as well as for fraud in 2019.

More recently, Zimbabwe’s power generation company ZPC failed to get out of the deal in a court ruling. That means the contract is still valid and Chivayo will have to implement the project somehow.

Yes this sounds very shoddy but Zimbabwe is open to shoddy business after all so I’ll have to steelman his actions.

One of the most remarkable technical achievements in the current millennium has been the relentless drop in solar PV and energy storage prices with solar falling by 99% since 1980.

A graph showing Solar PC panel prices per watt from 2022 to 1975 on a downward linear trend from $100/W in 1975 to less than $0.25 in 2022

Graph from Our World In Data which got their data from the IREA and a couple other places

As for utility solar, 2020 costs have fallen to a fifth of their 2010 prices and half from 2015 when the tender was awarded:

Two graphs plotting the per-Watt cost of a 100MW fixed tilt and one-axis tracker solar project with the bar of each year being broken up into their unit costs

Source: The United State’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It includes a dataset.

Given this dramatic fall in PV costs, we can conclude that Chivayo has predicted this trend and is entitled to half of the tender which he (may have) spent on all the cars, trips and gifts which he has handily taken in advance of the project to preserve the time value of money.

Such speculative foresight is worth the great reward so instead of hating on Wicknell, we should applaud him for having faith in solar energy prices which will help us form more accurate bids for future projects.

Yeah, nah. I mean, he could just do this project on the cheap right now and carry on flexing but I doubt he will. Also, why the fuck am I being nice to speculators?

Interestingly, I wonder how much money he’s actually spent. I get that wealth is not what’s visible but I’m curious to see how much he has fleeced rightfully spent from his earnings. To do this, I made a Google Spreadsheet which examines his social media posts to try and see how much he’s spent so far. From 2023 I have his spending at just over 4 million, most of which are cars.

Just a few notes on my estimations:

  1. I’ll assume that people don’t tell lies on the internet as wealth is not something you can see2.
  2. Even if he’s being honest, I’ll assume he spends exactly what he flexes.
  3. He usually mentions prices and specifies exact items so I’ll go by his word otherwise I’ll try and make an informed guess.
  4. There may be multiple revisions as I go back through the posts and learn more about something. For instance, he has 3 Rolls-Royces that I say in October but he didn’t specify a price but when I went back he did.
  5. I have a lot of thoughts on his staunch support for ZANU-PF but I will avoid sharing them for now. The note’s you see add context to what he spent money on.
  6. He occasionally donates stuff. One time, he donated 2×330W solar panels and since he’s supposed to be building a solar project I’ll give him credit if he donates solar panels.
  7. There is a nominal price column and a real one where nominal is the price at the time of him showing off and real will be an adjusted price.

Just some silly fun otherwise Zimbabwe would make me cry. Maybe it’ll become a cool data visualization project. I might even buy sirwicknell.co.zw since the domain on his profile while expired costs $900.

  1. Not that Zimbabwean Media is of much use. I see more articles talking about his extravagence and less about his actual work. The one source I’m particularly interested in is from a publication called The Source which investigated these tenders. While their site is down, I saw this Facebook Post by Noreen Welch which seems to be the story. In short, it’s all very shady. Sure, courts ruled not guilty but court is about what you can prove not what is true. ↩︎

  2. Go ahead and read The Psychology of Money. It’s worth it. A slight dispute when he talks about buying cars is that you own an (albeit heavily depreciating) asset so it counts as wealth unless you rent or lease. ↩︎