Peter Magombeyi

editorial comment

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa was expected last night to once again call for the lifting of sanctions in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, which he says is the major cause of the country’s economic decline.

The United States imposed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act in 2001 that restricts financial transactions between the southern African country and financial institutions associated with the US. The sanctions were put in place over alleged human rights violations.

There is no doubt that these sanctions have had a deleterious effect on the country’s battered economy. The African Union and Sadc have added to the chorus calling for the removal of the restrictions.

However, it will be delusional to totally blame the country’s economic malaise on sanctions. Corruption and mismanagement have probably been very damaging to the economy more than the sanctions ever could. The financial losses as a result of graft and mismanagement are staggering.

Speaking at the signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding between the African Parliamentary Network Against Corruption (Zimbabwe Chapter), the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) and Transparency International Zimbabwe this week, Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda said up to US$7 billion has been lost through graft between 2009 and 2017.

Zacc chair Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo earlier this year expressed frustration over the government’s lack of resolve to fight rampant corruption, amid shocking revelations the country is losing a massive US$1,8 billion annually due to the vice.

Government put in place a comprehensive parastatal reform programme to stop state entities from bleeding the fiscus in 2018. However two years later, the reforms are yet to be implemented.

The country has 107 state-owned enterprises and parastatals which used to contribute 40 % to the economy. Poor management, corruption and weak governance systems have resulted in them being run down, with contribution to the economy plummeting to just 2%. A total of 38 parastatals audited by the Auditor-General in 2018 incurred a combined loss of US$270 million.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube recently revealed that government spends around US$250 million supporting struggling parastatals annually. Auditor-General Mildred Chiri recently revealed that government’s books of accounts are in a shambolic state with no balance sheet. This makes accountability for its assets impossible.

Mnangagwa has spoken of his drive to fight corruption and enhance accountability. However, among the proposed amendments to the constitution is to remove the clause that mandates government to get approval from parliament on international treaties. This will eliminate the aspect of accountability, which Mnangagwa says he is championing. Calling for the removal of sanctions without addressing the shocking levels of corruption and mismanagement will not take the economy out of its current mess. The sooner government acknowledges this the better.

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