President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s failure to answer critical questions around the so called “mega deals” is indicative of a government that is averse to scrutiny and detests transparency and accountability.
In an opaque deal that raised a stench in 2020, government signed a hire purchase agreement with Landela, which saw the outfit procuring 162 (ZUPCO) buses from Chinese firm, Xiamen Golden Dragon Company for US$58 900 each.
It ended up selling them at US$212 962 each, raising US$34,5 million.
At the height of public transport woes, several investigations were conducted relating to the purchase of hundreds of Zupco buses by government in a deal that involved Landela.
At various letters of demand, private local newspapers wrote to the late Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza, Local government minister July Moyo, the Companies Registrar, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and the information ministry seeking answers to several questions in order to explain the murky procurement of buses using public funds.
Investigations by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) showed that the controversial multi million deal sucked in government officials, who swore an oath of service to serve in the best interest of the public. This exposes how President Mnangagwa’s administration refuses to be held accountable by citizens in line with democratic and constitutional tenets.
Government officials claimed that the buses already belonged to Zupco, with Mnangagwa commissioning the fleet amid pomp and fanfare.
According to the official memorandum, the government paid ZW$132,4 million (US$5,3 million), leaving a balance of ZW$730,8 million (US$29,5 million).
“We are in receipt of communication from the Minister of Local Government and Public Works as well as CMED (Pvt ) Limited requesting for variation of payment arrangements for the 162 buses procured by government from Landela Investments (Pvt) Ltd,” the leaked government memo, signed by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and permanent secretary George Guvamatanga, reads. “Landela has a hire purchase agreement with CMED for the supply of 162 buses valued at ZW$863,2 million. To date CMED has paid ZW$132,4 million leaving a balance of ZW$730,8 million. The purchase agreement has been instrumental in reducing the hire cost under the mass transport system …”
Sadly, the astonishing merry-go-round continued, with the Finance ministry shifting the responsibility to comment on the matter to other government departments, including the Procurement Regulation Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz).
Last month, Zimbabwe signed the Petroleum Exploration Development and Production Agreement (PEDPA) with Invictus Energy, which has been exploring for oil and gas reserves in Muzarabani, Mashonaland Central province.
The agreement marked an important step towards the sinking of the first test wells to see what exactly lies underground.
But something has remained amiss.
Both parties surely know the right thing to do, and if they forgot that resource exploitation issues require high levels of transparency, we take this opportunity to remind them. Invictus, the Australian miners, who are undertaking the exploration, are bound by transparency regulations as demanded by the Australian Stock Exchange where it is listed, while the Zimbabwean government knows that it must take everyone on board to avoid lack of stakeholder buy-in as this important deal progresses.
To date none of the parties have disclosed what exactly have they agreed on and what’s in it for the people of Zimbabwe, especially villagers in Muzarabani.
The lack of transparency by the government is a recipe for disaster and might stir conflict between government and the Muzarabani community.
One wonders why government keeps a secret of something that should be in the public interest?
Invictus indicated that the claims of oil or gas that continent has never seen could be lying untapped underneath the Zimbabwean ground and the people have been kept in suspense, waiting with bated breath.
The government must do the right thing and publicize the agreement and if possible make it available for the people in Muzarabani in print to apprise villagers on what it is planning about the resource, and how they stand to benefit from it.
Anything short of this would not be good enough!
As it stands, the silence by the government has been construed by the public as a way of telling Zimbabweans that what lies underneath the Zimbabwe earth’s crust is not theirs, but just a preserve for the elite.
Zimbabweans need no reminding about what happens when people are excluded from participating in the exploitation of natural resources found in their localities.
The bloodshed that took place at Marange diamond fields is one such example, and the ongoing tug-of-war between police and gold panners in Bindura is yet another.
It will be a disgrace for Zimbabweans to wake up one day and find oil/gas oozing out and only to realize that it has already been mortgaged. As Zimbabwe Economic and Democratic Freedom Party (ZEDFP) we want to urge President Mnangagwa to walk the talk, do the right thing and exact transparency and accountability.
Even if the oil or gas is not eventually found, Muzarabani community and all Zimbabweans at large must be fully equipped with the accurate information.
Edith Chibhamu is a business woman, human rights activist and aspiring president for ZEDFP. She can be contacted on Instagram: @official_queendee