It is now being reported that cabinet has ordered a review of the deal because apparently the processing plant and the iron deposits were sold for too little.
The other investment deal is the Chisumbanje/Greenfuels where the Minister of Energy Elton Mangoma has publicly told the company involved to export its ethanol. Apparently, Mangoma has not seen any cabinet minutes as to a directive that the ethanol from Greenfuels be compulsorily blended with all imported petrol in Zimbabwe.
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara has since told parliament that cabinet has set up some committee or other to look into the matter. There are other controversial government investment deals that are not as publicly disputed, but the above cited deals leave one perplexed as to what exactly is going on in cabinet and in the offices of various ministers.
The two deals in question, prior to being approved by the government, had been reported on for a while in the media. In some instances cabinet ministers travelled to various countries to see examples of where the relevant investor had a similar operation.
In other instances, particularly as regards the Essar deal, there were further media reports about serious jockeying for the lucrative tender by not only the Indian company, but also South African companies that were alleged to have strong links to the ANC officials and former presidents.
After all the foreign trips, lobbying, verification and other measures had been undertaken, the government, of its own volition, decided to award Essar and Greenfuels the relevant investment contracts. With both deals however, there now seems to be a turnaround by government without adequate reason or public explanation.
The versions are many, suffice to say, there is something fishy on the part of cabinet in both cases. The lack of clarity on these two matters is not only appalling, but patently indicative of a government that does not take its work or its own people seriously.
In fact, it appears that government is more pre-occupied with grandstanding about private public partnerships when it does not demonstrate the relevant knowledge of the intentions of the private partner and does not dot the ‘i’s or cross the ‘t’s when putting pen to paper. It is rather embarrassing to have a government that argues with itself about an investment that is already approved and already on the ground [a case of the left hand not knowing what the right is up to].
Even if one is to assume that in the case of the Essar deal, government is seeking to correct an anomaly, it would be irresponsible on our part as citizens to let cabinet off lightly. A key question is how does the government not follow up with relevant mining departments as to the content and nature of iron ore deposits before putting pen to paper? And if a minister is dealing with a multi-million dollar investment, to what extent is he/she assisted with the relevant expertise on the full implications of the deal?
In the case of Essar, it appears that the government did not do its homework and was quick to claim credit for an investment that invariably turned sour.
The limited public information on the Greenfuels deal in Chisumbanje leads the reader to the conclusion that the actual problem relates to community land rights. Instead the problem is that the government agreed to such a massive project, only to say it no longer wants to utilise the end product (ethanol) locally.
The relevant minister then advises the investment company, via the media, to ‘export’ the ethanol. Now, there could be various reasons why the minister has done this, including, perhaps political reasons, but the fact is that if cabinet agreed to this deal, it must either cancel it altogether or else see it through. Moreover, if there are serious differences in the fuel importation industry, then the minister must openly seek to iron out these differences and explain cabinet decisions for the benefit of not only the fuel oligarchs but also the Zimbabwean public. Where government fails to do this, then the assumption is that cabinet is not working in the best interests of Zimbabweans.
In both deals, it is imperative that government cleans its act quickly and demonstrate its seriousness about running this country. That the inclusive government is dysfunctional is a counterproductive argument, since cabinets worldwide have collective responsibilities and as such, botched investment deals are the fault of all political parties that are in cabinet.
Zhangazha writes in his personal capacity takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com