Candid Comment:Green Fuel: Ministers’ ‘ignorance’ of project shocking

Only yesterday, we heard a shocking statement from Energy minister Elton Mangoma claiming he doesn’t know about the existence of the project, nor does government. Now if a whole minister does not know about a mammoth project portfolio, it then becomes clear why Zesa continues to plunge us further into the dark. The responsible minister himself is in the dark about a project cleared by cabinet. So why is that man being allowed to earn our hard-earned tax money? And he makes strange bedfellows with Agriculture minister Joseph Made who also says he’s not informed about the Green Fuel pricing policy, when in fact his ministry is a 30% shareholder in the project and presumably should have a seat on the board.

Why is he fuelling confusion? The ministry has representation in the Green Fuel Project through Arda. So we in fact have two ministers who don’t know what’s happening right under their noses. Or shall we say who don’t know what they are doing?  Or is it a simple case of selective amnesia? This last possibility is very likely. It is particularly disappointing that MDC-T ministers are not offering the breath of fresh air that the populace would have expected. They ought to have shown a difference. Instead we get Mangoma saying, “The issue of jobs and that of blackmail will not work”.  By this is he suggesting that he won’t be blackmailed by the argument raised by Green Fuel that the project must not be scuttled because it will create 5 000 plus jobs?

“I don’t care,” declares Mangoma. Is that a statement coming from a minister from a so-called pro-worker party? And why doesn’t he care?  Because even if the project fails, “I will still remain a businessman”.

So it’s about him, and not the constituency he purports to represent. In more progressive countries, he’d be out of office like a bat out of hell when the next election comes.

“I have zero capital on politics,” he adds. Agreed. However, he says something instructive for Green Fuel. “They have been given the opportunity to interact with the government and they should use it.” Clearly, interaction has taken place before the project began, hence why it had BOT status and government is a 30% shareholder, has arranged a special water deal for the company and land has been availed for the project, albeit some of it under questionable circumstances.

In case the Rautenbachs, promoters of the project who have been doing business in Africa, miss the hint, the key word is in the term “ interaction”. In Nigeria they call it a transaction. In Zambia it’s called a missing page. Others call it oil for the machine. Conservative English call it greasing the palms. Still don’t get it?

We obviously don’t advocate this but our paper has it on good authority which palms need to be greased. Anyone who has been following the Green Fuel saga can identify the palms, some have open palms and the others clenched ones. They include MPs, cabinet ministers and other top government officials (names supplied) some of whom are demanding free shares for themselves in the company so as to facilitate the smooth flow of the project. So the issue is not about indigenisation. The Rautenbachs are indigenous.Regrettably this is the way of doing business in Africa. European governments have known this for ages and some of them give tax rebates for their companies that would have found themselves in such an invidious position.

In fact, that was the real reason why Transparency International was formed; to fight corporate – government corruption.

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