Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Mnangagwa government's game of darkness

31 Mar 2024 at 16:30hrs | Views
NOW, if you put President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mthuli Ncube and Kuda David Mnangagwa-the Finance minister and deputy minister, respectively—what will you get?

Correct. Darkness. Lots of darkness. Not because naughty Zesa will switch the lights off once the three gather together in a room. No, Zesa doesn't switch the light off on the President, even though, admittedly, it did it once or twice during Mugabe's time.

Instead, the darkness descends on you, the subalterns. You who needs no light because you have been condemned to a life of darkness since the discovery of electricity.
But there is a new form of darkness that you are all too familiar with now. General Notice 146B of 2024 was announced in February this year.

General notices, like statutory instruments, are those things that the Mnangagwa administration uses in lieu of laws because Parliament has become a sitting duck miring in its own form of darkness.

What this particular notice did was to put a thick slab on the operations of more than one score of public entities.

These lucky companies that include the RBZ and its subsidiaries, Kuvimba Mining House, AFC Commercial Bank, the Infrastructure Development Bank, Bindura Nickel Mine, Freda Rebecca Gold Mine and Great Dyke Investments will no longer be subjected to public scrutiny where their procurement and disposals of assets are concerned.

They have been exempted from the dictates of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act.

That means you and I will not be able to poke our snorts into how the entities will be procuring things or selling off their acquired assets, thanks to the fickle whims of the President and the Finance ministry (Mthuli and Kuda).

If you as much as skim through the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, you will easily get to understand why we are talking of darkness here.

To quote verbatim, the statute seeks to: "provide for the control and regulation of public procurement and the disposal of public assets so as to ensure that such procurement and disposal is effected in a manner that is transparent, fair, honest, cost-effective and competitive".

It follows, therefore, that once you unshackle an entity from the provisions of the statute, you are freeing it from what the law sets out to do.

You are saying you don't want the entity to be controlled and regulated.

If you remove it from the control and regulation, you are indemnifying the entity from the standard values of transparency, fairness, honesty, competitiveness and effectiveness. In summary, you are saying the companies must operate in anarchy, disruptive darkness.

What Mnangagwa, his son Kuda and Mthuli have done is very bad.

They have slammed the door on many forms of vital information that must be accessible to the public sphere in a normal society.

We won't be able to know whether the exempted companies qualified for the procurements and what documentation qualified them for procurement.

Nor will we ever manage to get the records of the relevant procurement procedures.

In the event that there were aspiring or actual competitors, they will not be able to challenge the procurement adjudications because they will not be able to gain access to the files of the exempted companies.

We will not be able to know the pricing dynamics involved to determine if or not the quotations were fair or cost-effective.

It will also be impossible to get to identify the sources and subsources from which the procurements are being made.

This is a particularly important issue because, these days, government is tending to do business with all sorts of discredited companies.

And, hey, once a lid is put on public entity procurements, we will also not be able to know whether or not anything has been procured.

That's because we will not be in a position to know who the suppliers or services are, nor what kind of supplies or services they are.

We can't know what type of procurement it was and its justification. Whether it was through competitive or restricted bidding or direct procurement.

If you can't access information on the exempted entities, you can't know how bidding was done nor what type of contract was given. The rest is history.

One day is one day. We will wake up to the news that the RBZ, which is among the exempted companies, has built a multi-billion casino in Victoria Falls.

Since we won't be able to identify those dealing with Fidelity Gold Refineries (FGR), a subsidiary of RBZ, we will surely be shocked when news somehow breaks out that FGR is getting dirty gold from terrorists operating in Cabo Delgado.

Sadly, Parliament, despite its constitutional and other mandates, will not be able to summon the RBZ or FGR for oral hearings. Nor will we, as citizens, be able to do anything about it.

The opacity that comes with exempting public entities from public scrutiny has another dire implication. It gives the companies and those that eat off them the leeway to manipulate assets transfers. In other words, it creates a fat opportunity for corruption.

Since we don't know what assets the privileged companies hold, we won't know how they are moved.

Assets can be transferred from one entity to another existing or a new one in a dodgy way. Let's assume that the government has seen that it has become cumbersome, for one reason or another, to keep owning a certain company but there is need to unlock value from the assets accumulated by the company in question.

They will easily set up a new company and transfer those assets in the middle of a foggy night.

Something similar to that has already happened in the case of Kuvimba Mining House.

What Mnangagwa and his allies did was to grab the assets in a multiplicity of companies controlled by an ally, Kudakwashe Tagwirei when it became clear that, because of sanctions, it would be untenable continuing with the entities flung across several countries.

Next thing, we heard that these very entities had been morphed into Kuvimba, which Mnangagwa then declared a government company. There was no Cabinet approval nor was Parliament consulted.

Similarly, the opaqueness and darkness that the exemptions have brought give corrupt businesspeople and interested government officials the chance to criminally dispose with assets. Murky deals will be hammered to auction assets for a song, with individuals pocketing millions in the process.

*Tawanda Majoni writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on majonitt@

Source - the standrad
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.