Zingman’s murky US$62m fire tenders deal goes ahead
A MURKY US$62 million deal for supply of fire tenders to urban and rural district councils at inflated prices by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Belarus ally Alexander Zingman will go ahead despite fierce resistance to the corrupt deal by local authorities and parliamentarians.
Cabinet on Tuesday approved the deal and came up with its execution framework that was stitched during a visit by a Zimbabwe delegation team which visited Belarus between 27 and 29 March last month.
The fire engines were marketed by Zingman’s AFTRADE DMCC and are manufactured by Belarusian company LLC Pozhsnab which is linked to him. While presenting a post-cabinet briefing on Tuesday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said cabinet had given light to the fire tenders deal.
“Cabinet received and adopted the Report on the Official Visit to the Republic of Belarus undertaken from 27 to 29 March, 2023 by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Honourable Dr. Frederick Makamure Shava, as presented by the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, Hon. Prof. Amon Murwira, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
“The objective of the visit was to reinforce the country’s multi-sectoral relations with the Republic of Belarus and identify new areas of cooperation. The two countries resolved issues on bilateral and multi-lateral co-operation…
“Furthermore, Zimbabwe is earmarked to receive fire tenders from Belarus, starting with a batch of 30 trucks that will come with spares,” she said. Besides the fire tenders deal, Mutsvangwa also announced other deals that the Zimbabwean government will pursue with Belarus which include trade in avocado pears and macadamia.
“Under economic co-operation, ZimTrade and the National Centre for Marketing and Price Study of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus signed a Memorandum of Understanding and Belarus expressed interest in importing avocado pears and macadamia nuts from Zimbabwe. Belarus will exhibit at the 2023 Edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair.
“In turn, Zimbabwe is expected to participate at the Belarus Agricultural Fair in April/May 2023. The countries will also cooperate in mining and energy,” she said, adding: “The 3rd Phase of the Agricultural Mechanisation Programme will be expedited for the realisation of the refurbishment of existing and construction of new grain silos, and the supply of 15 to 20 horsepower capacity tractors for the Pfumvudza/Intwasa Programme.”
The local government ministry, in a 14 June 2022 memorandum to all local authorities in the country, said each rural local authority should purchase a single fire tender. Zimbabwe has 63 rural district councils (RDCs).
With the 63 rural authorities each receiving one fire engine, the dealers are set to receive US$29 250 648, while an additional US$29 714 944 is set to be paid for by 32 urban local authorities which are expected to receive two fire engines each from a reseller company owned by Zingman, a Belarusian wheeler-dealer.
Harare and Bulawayo metropolitan provinces were ordered to purchase three fire engines each for at least US$2 785 776.
This translates to a total of US$61 751 368 that will be taken from the devolution funds of last year and there have already been uproars from local authorities and members of Parliament who view the deal as corrupt.
RDCs with smaller budgets from last year and paltry income will be the hardest hit by the deal, since the purchase gobbles up significant amounts. The murky deal when it was announced last year drew the ire of lawmakers who demanded a ministerial statement while accusing Local government Minister July Moyo of corruption and violating tender procedures in the murky deal.
Available information indicated that each fire tender is overpriced by US$270 000. Marondera Central MP Caston Matewu during a question and answer session in parliament on 23 June 2022 said the deal smacked of corruption and violation of the constitution.
“I want to reference section 274 (1) of our constitution which states that these (local authorities) manage their own affairs. I want to ask the minister why there is interference from central government shoving down the throats of local authorities, for example yesterday to purchase fire tenders on their behalf. What kind of law is the minister using to do this illegality?” he asked.
Deputy Local Government and Public Works minister Marian Chombo defended the move in parliament, saying: “We have three tiers of government, which is the central, provincial and the local authority, and they work in unison. I do not see anywhere where the ministry of Local Government and Public Works has interfered in the affairs of local authorities. We do not interfere.”
But Matewu would have none of it and argued that local authorities have to abide by the Procurement Act which in the case of the fire engines deal was flouted.
“Why is the Procurement Act not being followed in ordering all local authorities to take their devolution funds and pay Belarus without any procurement? Why was this allowed to happen?”
“The Procurement Act is very clear on how one buys any tender. Why is the minister flouting the Procurement Act in ordering every single authority to buy fire tenders from Belarus which they did not even ask for? They are taking this money from devolution funds that must be spent in devolved provinces which make their own decisions and own affairs?”
MPs constantly interjected Chombo, asking her whether a tender was floated for the purchase of the fire engines. “If there is any law that you feel that we have not followed the laid down procedures, you are free to approach my office,” Chombo said.
Norton independent member of the National Assembly Temba Mliswa accused Chombo of insulting Parliament.
“We are the ones who make laws, we know Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and there is no way you can say that they were bought. The question here is that you violated PRAZ and if you say that there is a tender, can you furnish us with the tender number?” Mliswa said.
“There was no tender number in the report. It was a corrupt directive and it is difficult to ask a minister who is also implicated in the corruption — that is where the problem is. Where is the tender number? When was it tendered? Where are the adverts? This is PRAZ and we are the ones who put the law. An advertisement is made, and PRAZ regulations are followed. Cabinet is not above PRAZ, no one is above PRAZ. Can she tell us when they tendered the advert?”
Harare East MP Tendai Biti said: “Can the minister in his statement clarify and explain to the House the legal provisions that he is acting on. Can he also explain why he is now allocating devolution funds when we do not have a devolution law actualising the provisions of chapter 14 of the constitution and section 301 of the constitution? So, if the minister’s statement can speak to the law, why is there by-passing of the Procurement Act? Why is there by-passing of the autonomy of local authorities and why are devolution funds being used in the absence of a devolution law inconsistent with chapter 14 and section 301 of the constitution?”
Former Local Government deputy minister Sessel Zvidzai said the deal was a looting ploy by the regime and nothing is in it for the citizens.
“It’s not fire engines that are being bought. It’s just corruption on display because in terms of devolution all councils are free to make their own priorities and I am certain that is not their priority,” he said