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Corrupt cartels have taken over

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IF anyone ever doubted the power and influence of the corrupt cartels that have captured the Zimbabwean state, the glaring evidence was laid bare this week, stunning citizens who are rarely shocked by anything anymore these days.

Barely a few hours after the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee conducted an open hearing into the breathtaking corruption at Zesa Holdings, the panel’s chairperson, Tendai Biti (pictured), was recalled from Parliament. It is a naked ploy to silence him and scupper investigations into organised economic crime.

In the face of a tough line of questioning, Zesa executive chairperson Sydney Gata admitted that the awarding of a US$250 million Dema Power Plant deal to Sakunda Holdings was a “bad” decision. Biti described it as “atrocious”.

We must remember that the real cost of the corrupt Dema project escalated alarmingly from US$250 million to US$498 million over three years.

Corruption is the only reason why a broke government chose to generate electricity — using diesel-powered generators — at 30 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), yet it would have been much cheaper to import power from Mozambique at four cents per kWh.

Clearly, that stinking deal was foisted on the taxpayer by someone in the Office of the President. When the political overlords and their cronies tossed Biti out of Parliament this week, he was on the verge of forcing Zesa officials to answer the all-important question: Who exactly in the office of the President forced Zesa to give the deal to Sakunda?

The corruption at Zesa is mind blowing. The Zimbabwean government’s dealings with Afreximbank are a closely guarded secret.

It was only at the end of 2020 that citizens began catching a few glimpses into the toxic brew of opaque public loans and publicly guaranteed loans, thanks to a court order that has caused official discomfort. But even then, the information released by Treasury on the odious debts has been sketchy and carefully curated to preserve the interests of kleptocracy.

The massive corruption at Zesa, unearthed by tenacious journalists and a forensic audit, is stunning — even by Zimbabwe’s rotten standards.

Zesa clinched a US$35 million facility at Afreximbank for the installation of five electricity sub-stations at Glen Norah, Mufakose, Hatcliffe, Epworth and Greystone Park. Under the arrangement and through “technology transfer”, a private company, PME, would make and install the equipment.

What happened next was baffling. In a patently illegal move, Zesa managers took the US$35m from Afreximbank and transferred the money to PME, without demanding a performance bond or a guarantee. Zesa was eventually prejudiced of US$1.9 million in that transaction.

The tragedy in all this is that the taxpayer must now pick up the tab. Not only that; there is a suffocating sense of impunity because citizens have helplessly witnessed officials engaging in such corruption for decades and getting away with it. The corruption at Zesa is a microcosm of the staggering rot that has reduced Zimbabwe to a basket case.

Zesa Enterprises, a subsidiary of Zesa Holdings, procured goods and services totalling US$253.6 million from suppliers without obtaining the stipulated three quotations.

Six of these transactions (US$23.8 million) were processed on quotes obtained via the phone and 26 of them, totalling US$229.8 million, were not accompanied by the requisite three quotations.

Cartels and their political cronies have captured the state. For that reason, economic revival will remain wishful thinking.

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