Comment

Billboards for Zanu PF’s misrule

ONE phenomenon emblematic about the Ziscosteel saga is government’s convoluted management of information relating to the embarrassing corruption that has crippled the steel giant.


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Apparently displaying all the traits of a rudderless vessel, government is crying out for a more competent information manager to clearly articulate its position on the saga.


The multiplicity of messages which have emerged from senior party officials typify the lack of cohesion in the party’s anti-corruption crusade.


Industry and International Trade minister Obert Mpofu set the tone of discord when he sensationally revealed to a parliamentary portfolio committee that “there is a thick file, which if you see it, you will be shocked”.


He said some of the people responsible for “bleeding” Zisco were his colleagues in parliament.


No sooner had he made the revelation than he told the same committee that he was not aware of any MP who had looted Zisco — a fatal gaffe.


Then followed a cornucopia of confusion on the real story at Zisco. The Standard this week quoted Vice-President Joseph Msika as saying there was no corruption at Zisco but that the company had collapsed due to lack of equipment.


A Herald columnist, who usually reflects the thinking of President Mugabe’s thought police, on Saturday tried to situate the Zisco report as a non-event. The columnist feels that the corruption at Zisco has nothing to do with government but venal managers aping poor corporate governance in the private sector.


The Sunday News this week quoted Anti-Corruption minister Munyaradzi Mangwana almost confirming details of Mpofu’s initial expose.


“I cannot say names (of alleged looters), but yes, I can only inform you that a number of my esteemed colleagues are under investigation,” he said.


This level of honesty could be dangerous for Mangwana.


Then government itself entered the denial mode.


Statements attributed to “Zisco managers” yesterday sought to dismiss the contents of the Zisco report, saying the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate investigators who authored the report had relied on information from “nefarious sources”.


Before the full publication of the report, there is already a concerted effort to sanitise its contents. Government spin-doctors have tried to exonerate politicians by blaming the rot on Zisco managers. The managers have in turn professed their innocence saying they made “sensible business decisions”.


The attempt to trivialise the level of corruption at Zisco, denials and the paucity of official information on the saga, do not however discount the fact that there is grand corruption at Zisco and that politicians had a hand in this by virtue of their active involvement in the graft and the failure of their oversight role at the parastatal.


Like the more than three-score state institutions in the country, Zisco falls under its line ministry. Mangwana’s ministry also plays a supervisory role at parastatals and there are also departments in vice-presidents Joice Mujuru and Joseph Msika’s offices dealing with state enterprises.


This bureaucratic dead mass lived up to its reputation and let the situation degenerate to the current disconcerting levels. Government should therefore not escape culpability here.


The attempt to lead the nation into believing that Zisco was brought down by managers underscores government’s jaundiced commitment to fighting corruption in big offices. We are already seeing a dogged effort to restrain structures set up by the state — through a constitutional amendment and an Act of Parliament — from probing misfeasance at Zisco.


It is curious that Msika says there was no high-level corruption at Zisco at a time when the Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating the issue. Then there is the criminal attempt by government spin-doctors to divert public attention from politicians to management at Zisco. All this in the name of fighting corruption?


The Zisco saga should instead be a test case for government’s commitment to fighting corruption and demonstrating to would-be investors that corruption will not be tolerated. Mpofu’s attempt to conceal the contents of the report on the sterile premise that it would scare away investors is an undisguised advertisement that government is prepared to conceal graft even if it means scaring away investors.


This is government defending corruption.


This newspaper meanwhile will continue to perform its public duty by shining a spotlight on the dark and dirty corners of so-called public corporations that have become billboards for Zanu PF’s misrule.