GOVERNMENT’s failure to answer critical questions around the procurement of Zupco buses using public funds in a deal that involves Landela Investments is indicative of a government that is averse to scrutiny and detests accountability.
In an opaque deal that raised a stench, government signed a hire purchase agreement with Landela, which saw the outfit procuring 162 buses from Chinese firm, Xiamen Golden Dragon Company for US$58 900 each.
It ended up selling them at US$212 962 each, raising US$34,5 million.
At the height of public transport woes, the Zimbabwe Independent conducted several investigations relating to the purchase of hundreds of Zupco buses by government in a deal that involved Landela.
Business tycoon Kuda Tagwirei holds significant shareholding in Landela.
Subsequently, the publication, in conjunction with Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) has engaged law firm Atherstone and Cook to compel government to release pertinent information relating to the controversial bus procurement deal.
This newspaper, in various letters of demand, has written to Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza, Local government minister July Moyo, the Companies Registrar, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and the information ministry seeking answers to several questions in order to explain the murky procurement of buses using public funds.
At the heart of the investigation by the Zimbabwe Independent, in which government officials have ducked key questions, the newspaper sought to understand the beneficial owner of Landela and its relationship with government, the number of buses procured by Zupco over the past 12 months and whether the transaction satisfied tender processes.
The controversial multi million deal, which has sucked in government officials, who swore an oath of service to serve in the best interest of the public, sheds light on how President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration refuses to be held accountable by citizens in line with democratic and constitutional tenets.
Before reaching the halfway mark of his presidential tenure, which was won through a disputed election by a wafer thin 50,67%, Mnangagwa’s administration has failed to answer pertinent questions on key national matters and controversial transactions in a series of unpopular moves that have blighted his government.
Ironically, when he came to power, Mnangagwa pledged to break with a past, which was shrouded under a veil of secrecy during the near four-decade rule by late former president Robert Mugabe.
During Mugabe’s rule, rampant corruption permeated every facet of Zimbabwean life, culminating in the long-time ruler making startling revelations that the nation could have been prejudiced of US$15 billion through shady diamond mining deals in the resource rich Chiadzwa area.
Interestingly, much as the media, civic society organisations and ordinary citizens sought to understand the diamond mining process in Zimbabwe and how much the country was benefitting from the resource, Mugabe and his lieutenants simply ignored or remained tight-lipped in the face of a tide of questions raised around extraction of the precious stones.
At that time, Finance minister Tendai Biti announced that all the mining companies were not contributing anything to the fiscus by way of paying taxes and royalties.
Mimicking his predecessor’s style of governance through which leaders were not beholden and answerable to anyone, Mnangagwa has refused to be subjected to questions around the track record of his administration against the founding values of democracy, which compels governments to be accountable to citizens.
Anjin Investments, which was barred among other seven companies from extracting diamonds from Chiadzwa on accusations of understating earnings in 2017, resumed operations this year under unclear terms.
Mines and Mining Development minister Winston Chitando has declined to explain why the Chinese outfit was allowed to resume production or make public the terms surrounding its agreement with government.
Since discovery of the precious stones, inquiries to gain understanding of the shareholding structure of the entities mining diamonds, their scale of production and output, as well as their earnings have met fierce resistance from government.
Ministers and top government officials were evasive when they were quizzed to explain why Sakunda Holdings owned by Tagwirei extended a US$22 million loan to the National Oil and Infrastructure Company (Noic) to allow the state entity to buy out Lonmin’s stake in the Feruka oil pipeline.
Related to that, officials have declined to explain what benefits Sakunda Holdings accrued from entering into such a deal and whether it was paying tariffs at a cost of US6 cents for a litre levied by Noic for usage of the pipeline.
The investigation by this newspaper revealed that the state had been prejudiced of US$400 million by fuel cartels who have monopolised usage of the multi-billion dollar spinning asset.
Political analyst Dumisani Nkomo points out that government has not been transparent in the discharge of its mandate.
“I think government has struggled with being transparent and subjecting itself to scrutiny. When the so-called new dispensation came into power it came up with a 100-day plan which was never implemented and reasons for that have not been given,” Nkomo said.
“The manner in which the Coronavirus funding has been handled has raised questions around the misappropriation of funds. There is little transparency and accountability around how the funds have been managed,”
Economist Tawanda Purazeni contends that Mnangagwa’s administration has reneged on government’s commitment to be held accountable in the utilisation of public funds and its general conduct on matters of national interest.
“Corruption permeates every facet of Zimbabwean life and in the face of it, government has reneged on its commitment to be held accountable in its discharge of duty,” he said.
“Tendering processes which have become sources of financial impropriety are shrouded in mystery. The same applies to public expenditure and the number of mega deals signed by government. In all these instances, government officials have not answered critical questions raised by the public. The secrecy is maintained to create a fertile ground for corruption.”