PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s rural home district of Zvimba and other Zanu PF strongholds in Mashonaland have controversially grabbed the largest amounts of money from tollgate fees collected nationwide, in a move which has caused dismay in government and political circles.
The move — which has also caused shock in political and civil society circles — apparently confirms the skewed distribution of national resources in the country, with most resources being allocated to areas where Mugabe and his closest cronies hail from.
Mugabe and his loyalists have over the years been accused of grabbing national resources to develop their own regions at the expense of others. This has created imbalances in national development and angered other regions which felt marginalised.
The disbursement of tollgate funds collected between August last year and June this year has raised questions about Mugabe’s role in ensuring fair distribution of national resources, especially after his home district, a place of little commercial activity, and Bindura, the capital of the Zanu PF stronghold of Mashonaland Central, got the lion’s share.
An analysis of the distribution pattern of tollgate money contained in Finance minister Tendai Biti’s recent Mid-Term Fiscal Policy review statement clearly shows that proportionally most of the US$15 million already disbursed by the Zimbabwe National Road Authority (Zinara) to different districts for the maintenance of the country’s road network went to Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central. Zvimba, a growth point which is Mugabe’s home area, and Bindura got the highest sums disbursed.
Out of the US$15 million distributed, Bindura got US$2,6 million and Zvimba slightly more than US$2 million. Mhondoro-Ngezi in Mashonaland West got US$1,8 million.
All top six beneficiaries of tollgate money are in the Mashonaland provinces, Bindura (Mashonaland Central), Zvimba (Mashonaland West), Mhondoro-Ngezi (Mashonaland West), Chaminuka (Mashonaland East, US$510 000), Mazowe (Mashonaland Central, US$190 000), and Pfura (Mashonaland Central, US$137 655) .
Mashonaland provinces are Zanu PF strongholds. Votes from those provinces saved Mugabe and his party from the jaws of defeat by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC-T during the 2008 elections. Since the emergence of the MDC in 1999, Mashonaland provinces have always stood firmly behind Mugabe and Zanu PF. Most of the provinces, including those in the Matabeleland region, Masvingo and Manicaland, Harare and Bulawayo, have largely voted against Mugabe and Zanu PF.
By contrast, while Zvimba got a large allocation for road development, other places with a hive of commercial activity such as Beitbridge — the
busiest inland border town in sub-Saharan Africa which generates millions of revenue in hard currency for the state – got paltry sums. Beitbridge, the gateway to the region, only got US$32 534.
Beitbridge is poorly developed even though it generates millions for government. Compared to the relatively well-developed Musina – which is only 12 km on the South African side of the border – Beitbridge is a poor and dusty town with dilapidated or non-existent infrastructure. Its potential has been undermined by lack of development.
Another border town, Mutare in the eastern part of the country, through which a lot of trade with Mozambique and other countries is conducted, was also given peanuts. Mutare is the hub of the eastern region with a lot of mineral, tourism, timber and cross-border trade. It got US$65 568 for road development. Mutare’s roads are in a very bad state.
Other bigger towns compared to Zvimba but which got far less money include Hwange (US$65 659) and Gwanda (US$52 079).
Most road projects around the country have not been moving due to lack of resources. While work is already underway to complete the dualisation of the Harare-Masvingo and Harare-Gweru highways, including construction of Manyame and Mukuvisi bridges, progress has been very slow due to lack of resources.
Some of the projects have actually been at a standstill for years. Construction of the Bulawayo-Nkayi road has been stalled for a long time but Nkayi as a district was merely allocated US$53 000.
During the first five months of the year, Zinara raised US$23,2 million from tollgates and road access fees. Of this amount, US$15 million has already been disbursed.
Zinara chief executive Frank Chitukutuku yesterday refused to comment on the issue, saying he was only able to do so next week upon his return from South Africa.
However, political parties expressed outrage at the way tollgate fees were distributed.
MDC-T spokesman Nelson Chamisa said national resources must be distributed in a fair and equitable manner.
“We don’t believe in lion’s share claims of any portion of the national cake by any province ahead of others. Sharing of the national cake should be equitable and equal among all provinces of the country. We oppose these enclave developmental agendas,” he said.
“We want equity and transparency in the distribution of tollgate funds or any other national resources. There is too much opaqueness; we need openness and accountability in the way resources are distributed and shared.”
Zapu slammed the manner in which the distribution of tollgate funds has been handled, saying this provided further evidence that Mugabe and his cronies have been diverting most of the national resources to develop their own home areas at the expense of other regions.
Zapu spokesman Methuseli Moyo said this “sinister pattern” in the distribution of national resources has been going on since 1980 and must be stopped.
“It follows a pattern of inequitable distribution of national resources and skewed development that has been there for the last 30 years,” he said. “It is worrying that even with a minister from a political party other than Zanu-PF, this pattern still exists. It must be stopped,” Moyo said.
“There have been no major road network development in Matabeleland. If you move from Bulawayo to Tsholotsho or Bulawayo to Kezi and other districts in this region you will be shocked by the state of the roads. There is no development in this region.”
Moyo said that was why his party wanted devolution or decentralisation of power, a political system of governance that empowers provinces or regions to directly benefit from local resources, during the current constitution-making process. “Devolution or decentralisation of power is one way of addressing such problems,” he said.
MDC-M secretary-general Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga said she had not yet analysed the tollgates funds distribution.
Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said his party has not discussed the issue of tollgate fees disbursement. “That is an issue we never discussed as a party. I think those funds were distributed by the Minister of Finance using his own judgment.”