Corruption: Mugabe’s ugly legacy

IF there is one defining feature of President Robert Mugabe’s long rule and its attendant rotten leadership, besides human rights abuses, governance failures and corrosive incompetence, it is corruption: it’s undoubtedly part of his awful legacy.

Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya

President Robert Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe
Of late the media, especially the Zimbabwe Independent, has been exposing petty, grand and systematic corruption involving state enterprises, mainly Zesa, senior government officials, including cabinet ministers, and their cronies.

Corrupt deals involving hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions, of investment and taxpayers’ funds have been exposed.

While corruption is troubling as it gnaws away at society’s fabric and destroys the economy and people’s lives, what is even more worrying is that Mugabe doesn’t do anything about it. In fact, his office is deeply entangled in some of these murky transactions.

Consequently, Zesa and other parastatals have become looting grounds for ministers and their partners in crime.

It’s not only Wicknell Chivayo, a convicted fraudster, and his partners who have been corruptly awarded tenders worth US$400 million; Mugabe’s in-law Derrick Chikore and his US$83 million (initially US$194 million) Dema Diesel Power Plant project; Energy minister Samuel Undenge and his corrupt activities; or Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s son Siqokoqela with his US$350 million usurious loan offer in the Zesa feeding trough, there is lot of rot at the state power utility.

Chivayo got US$5 million unprocedurally; Undenge received a suspicious US$200 000 payment and Mphoko’s son wanted to reap US$70 million in interest charges.

Some of ZPC’s multi-million-dollar tenders include Munyati solar (awarded to ZTE Corporation), Insukamini in Bulawayo (17 Metallurgical China) and Mutare peaking power (Helcraw). Tenders were also awarded for the 300MW Kariba South extension, 600MW Hwange 7 and 8 extension (Sino Hydro), 30MW Gairezi hydro (Intratek, BHL India, Angelique) and repowering of Bulawayo (17 Metallurgical), Munyati (Intratek, Jaguar Overseas Limited) and Harare stations (Jaguar).

In some cases, companies which initially lost the tenders ended up involved in lucrative projects. The deals were inflated by more than US$500 million amid reports of corruption and bribery.
The Kariba South Power Station Extension Project, officially commissioned by Mugabe in September 2014, was initially pegged at US$355 million, but shot up to US$533 million. The cost escalation was US$178 million.

The cost of the Gairezi Project, awarded to a consortium led by Chivayo, surged to US$248 million, up from the initial US$90 million. This created a price variance of US$158 million.

The inflated costs in total amount to US$507 million.

Energy experts say Zesa could have saved approximately US$200 million over three years had it explored cheaper alternatives in the Dema deal alone.

What is the moral of the story?

The point is government officials are looting state enterprises with impunity on a massive scale. Corruption is now one of Mugabe’s ugly legacies and it’s getting worse.

State enterprises and parastatals remain in the red as it emerged their cumulative loses and net liabilities are in excess of US$1 billion, while local authorities lost more than US$500 million through mismanagement, corruption and theft in 2015.

This is contained in latest audit reports from the Auditor-General Mildred Chiri.

In her report for the period up to December 31 2015, Chiri warned that the culture of poor corporate governance, along with the failure to implement proper revenue collection, management and debt recovery strategies, posed a huge threat to the continued existence of the loss-making parastatals. All the while, Zimbabweans live as if they are citizens of a backwater desert. Despite Zimbabwe having vast natural resources and huge human capital, Mugabe has dismally failed to manage and develop the country.

Millions live in dire frustration, hopelessness and poverty, die from preventable diseases, or flee to neighbouring countries and overseas to survive.

The greatest crisis in Zimbabwe is hence not disease, hunger or poverty, but lack of leadership — corruption being one of its most appalling manifestations.