Zesa scams: Why is Mugabe quiet?

IN our lead story today, we report that Energy minister Samuel Undenge approved a dodgy US$194 million power-generating deal against better advice from his technical advisers and experts for the benefit of well-connected individuals.

Zimbabwe Independent Comment

Poor Zimbabweans, as Zesa customers, will pay the heavy price of this rampant corruption which seems to be also benefitting those in the corridors of power.

Last week we reported Zimbabwe’s controversial power generation projects have been inflated by more than US$500 million.

Officials told us that the price escalations and government’s inability or unwillingness to investigate the corrupt deals suggest ministers supervising the tenders are deeply involved in the attendant corrupt deals. In some cases ministers are being arm-twisted to help relatives and cronies of the powers-that-be, confirming that we are now being ruled by shameless kleptocrats desperately scrambling to loot the Treasury and economy dry before President Robert Mugabe, now old at 94 and ailing, goes.

Whatever his ambitions to die in office, we know he can’t defy mortality. The fact is we all die; rich, poor, young and old. Those increasingly haunted by thoughts of Mugabe’s mortality must accept this — even if he pretends to be an immortal being, like a god of ancient Greece or Rome, the truth is he is a mere mortal.

Undenge this week confirmed Zesa subsidiary, Zimbabwe Power Company, erred in paying convicted fraudster Wicknell Chivayo US$5 million in the US$200 million Gwanda solar project without getting a bank guarantee.

Zesa, the country’s power utility, is rocked by massive tender scandals in which government has entrusted the country’s critical multi-billion-dollar energy projects to corrupt “tender-preneurs” with criminal records, involving fraud and drug trafficking.

Zimbabwe is planning to construct three solar plants, each generating 100 megawatts. The initial cost, as of 2014, was US$183 million for each of the projects bringing the total cost to US$549 million. The solar tenders were won controversially by China Jiangxi Corporation, ZTE Corporation and Intratrek Ltd fronted by Chivayo.

Soon after winning the tenders, the companies demanded price escalations, resulting in the projects being inflated to US$240 million each, bringing the total cost to US$720 million.

The question is: Why is Mugabe quiet on such brazen corruption? Why is he not commenting or acting on Zesa scandals? Is there something we are missing? We ask because Chivayo has come out in the public posing for photos with him and his wife Grace? And he has arrogantly declared nothing will be done to him. What’s going on here? Who is behind Chivayo? Can the president say something please?

Undenge has now spoken, but his remarks have been unhelpful, yet revealing. We would like to remind authorities corruption undermines economic growth and development. Its economic and social costs are damaging. While the direct costs of corruption are well known, its real price may be even more debilitating, fuelling low growth and greater income inequality. Corruption also has a broader corrosive impact on society. It undermines trust in government, erodes citizens’ ethical standards and gnaws away at society’s fabric. Transparency, effective institutions and progressive leadership are key to a nation’s success.