Time to stop this kleptocracy

Kleptocracy is defined as a government by the corrupt in which rulers use their official positions for personal gain.

This week NewsDay reported that Zanu PF officials in Kwekwe are dangling the newly-discovered goldfields in Sherwood Block, promising each and every one of their supporters a claim in the mineral-rich belt if the party wins the next general elections, which the party wants held as early as this year despite conditions on the ground being far from conducive.

A new constitution is not yet in place; there is still the referendum to accept it or reject it the to-do list is long.

The Zanu PF Midlands provincial leadership declared that it had taken over control of the goldfields despite a court order barring Zanu PF supporters from entering after war veteran George Makombe claimed legal title to them.

They have circled and sealed off Sherwood, vulture-style.

Said Zanu PF Midlands provincial secretary for security Owen Ncube: Only sons of Midlands will be allowed to enter the fields and they will do so through party structures. Those that are not known within the party will not have access. Is that so?

What about the Chiadzwa villagers? Are they not sons and daughters of Manicaland? If so, why were they removed to make room for, among other outsiders, the Chinese? Why didnt Zanu PF similarly apportion them diamond fields as is the partys reported intention in Kwekwe? Are not the two situations largely similar?

Whats good for Sherwood should also be good for Chiadzwa. Is it because gold is much less valuable in terms of profits than diamonds that is has to be left to small fish to pillage, that whole communities wont have to be relocated to make way for big companies, both local and foreign and connected to big fish, as happened in Marange where hundreds were reportedly killed?

This glaring contradiction and inconsistency shows there is neither a policy nor plan, but things are done at the political whim of whoever is the godfather of the province.

This shows a ruling class driven by acquisitiveness and greed. The much-vaunted empowerment so far has not been broad-based, but confined to the usual suspects the politically well-connected. Yes, coercion, not cohesion, is their instrument of choice.

Thats why they are turning on their own now that the white man is no longer in the equation. Thats why Makombe has taken the fight to his comrades whom he accuses of destroying Zanu PF from inside while looting national resources for personal gain.

So, all those platitudes about consolidating the gains of independence are hollow when you dispossess your own of land and resources in this case whole communities.

The situation could descend into a free-for-all such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo where whole regions have not known peace for decades because some political opportunists solely after mineral wealth are fuelling conflict under the guise of fighting for land and sovereignty, whereas its for wholesale pillage.

Violence there has escalated to the extent of putting a political solution beyond reach as warring has become permanent and its in the interests of the plundering warlords.

In this country, as a result, only anaemic amounts of revenue have been trickling into Treasury despite this new-found mineral wealth. That is why the economic recovery has been spectacularly jobless even after inflation fell from the stratospheric 230 million% (when the Central Statistical Office abandoned compiling figures altogether) to the current single-digit figures.

Yes, its a completely different story on the ground despite all talk of indigenisation and empowerment. Just take a drive around Harares industrial sites and you will see the shocking extent of deterioration and decay as company premises and railway tracks have become overgrown with grass.

There has been no meaningful investment in the productive sector from the new-found natural resource wealth to create and boost employment.

The unfortunate tradition of African big men to exploit the economy to enrich themselves is all too familiar. At the time of his death in 2005, Togolese dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema was Africas longest-serving ruler, having held sway over the country for 38 years.

Over the course of these decades in power, Eyadema turned Togos phosphate mines into his personal savings account. Estimates place his amassed fortune at about $2,8 billion. Togo has only 6,3 million people.

If the money hadnt been spirited from the continent into Swiss bank accounts, what could it have done? Assuming an average annual cost per person of $140 for anti-retroviral drugs, Eyademas plunder could have supplied a years treatment for 20 million people living with HIV.

Last year, it was estimated that at the current rate of production or exploitation, the Chiadzwa diamond fields would be exhausted in 14 years. We are now into 2012, but nothing much has been done to
invest in the diamonds for the present generation and posterity. Its possible that in 2023, when the gems run out, there will be nothing to show for it.

Says United States President Barack Obama: Repression can take many forms . . . No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves . . . No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery.

That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. The rushed elections Zanu PF is pushing for this year will be another charade to legitimise and perpetuate kleptocracy.

The nation must take a stand against kleptocracy, not shield it as is apparently the case. This calls for citizen involvement through demanding transparency, accountability and good governance.
We have to put the boot firmly on the neck of corruption.

ctutani@newsday.co.zw

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