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Clinton Siniwa: How much has state capture by cartels cost Zimbabwe?

By Clinton Siniwa

“It is the obligation of the people that have created, perpetuated and benefited from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it…”

Clinton Siniwa
Clinton Siniwa

The speech was inapposite given the nature of the occasion. The surprise and anger of some of the audience of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) 2020 awards was visible on camera. Joaquin Phoenix was delivering his acceptance speech at the awards ceremony.

Meanwhile another speech was also being delivered by two individuals. The audience was not the gentry of the BAFTA’s but journalists and politicians. The stage was not grand like the one at Piccadilly but a simple desk in an office at Harare. Two senior members of the ZANU PF Youth League were levelling serious accusations of corruption against prominent business persons.

The difference between Phoenix and Messrs Tsenengamu and Matutu is that the former was acknowledging his role in systemic inequality and oppression while the other two were being rather selective.

Not only were they disowning responsibility but they went even further to absolve their principal. They claimed the President was not responsible for creating, perpetuating and benefiting from corruption in Zimbabwe.

Their claims though barely believable, do bring about important questions. Admittedly much of what Tsenengamu and Matutu ranted about is mostly ZANU PF internal politics. However as we learnt from the events of November 2017, ruling party internal matters can have far reaching consequences.

A few days later the two were suspended by the same person they undertook painstaking efforts to acquit. How they were relieved of their party positions and assets is a directive that came from high offices.  In vain attempts to curry favour with their principal they had instead drawn his ire. The said businessmen’s interests are evidently more important to the President than the zealous duo.

Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti expressed his sympathy for the duo. He went further to assert that cartels have taken over Zimbabwe’s economy including the Ministry of Finance.

Apparently billions have been stolen through shady projects like Command Agriculture. One can only imagine what such tax dollars could do for the comatose public healthcare and social services.

The same Government that plunged billions of dollars into the black hole that is Command Agriculture has now set up a mealie meal taskforce.

The cartels that were given foreign currency to supply agricultural inputs are the same ones that have oversight in the distribution of mealie meal coupons. They are being rewarded to solve a crisis resulting from their very own corruption and incompetence!

The Prosecutor General (PG) dropped a bombshell stating that cartels have taken over state institutions such as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) police and judiciary. Rarely does the PG ever correspond to claims of opposition politicians.

If the institutions that are supposed to uphold rule of law and fight graft are compromised where do we turn to? But then of course, given that Mnangagwa himself protects persons accused of corruption can we honestly be surprised?

The issue of state capture is one that has also troubled our neighbours down south. President Zuma was under investigation for state capture by the Gupta’s. It is alleged that the Gupta family offered certain persons Government ministerial positions.

These offers were to be paid for by specific contracts to the benefit of the Gupta’s. These offers were made at their private residence in the presence of the President. A report has been released by Forensics for Justice detailing how the judiciary in South Africa has been captured.

The economic impact of state capture in South Africa is estimated by Pravin Gordhan to be in excess of R250 billion. As can be expected, this has also led to a hit on GDP growth.

Turning back to Zimbabwe, how much has state capture by these cartels cost the country? The total value is yet to be measured in economic terms but is glaring obvious in qualitative terms. It is indisputable that the quality of life in Zimbabwe has plunged abysmally.

There is no quick remedy to resolve the issue of state capture by cartels. Whatever strategy we pursue must address several matters: Firstly, the opposition political parties must make it hard for ZANU PF to easily tinker with the national Constitution. It holds the means by which the vulnerable in our society can be protected from the predatory elites.

Secondly citizens themselves must demand from Government policies that facilitate the equal distribution of wealth to all. The culture of acquiescence among Zimbabweans is the reason why the country is in its current state. The man on the street might not have created nor benefited from corruption but through apathy; is perpetuating injustice.

Other nations in the region have taken to the streets for much less than what ZANU PF has put us through. The citizens must realise that none will save us except ourselves. The people must make their demands known to Government through all democratic means possible.

Lastly, civil servants working in state institutions must adhere to high ethical and moral values. Each and every citizen must understand how this is an individual responsibility.

Joaquin Phoenix understands his responsibility to fight systemic oppression and inequality and he is doing something about it. Likewise, what will it take for each Zimbabwean to own the responsibility of fighting ZANU PF corruption and oppression?

Clinton Siniwa is a Chartered Certified Accountant. You can engage with him on Twitter @ClintSiniwa

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