CHINESE nationals, retail and mining companies – long touted as Zimbabwe’s all-weather friends – have dominated the list of alleged cash looters who externalised over $1,3 billion during former President Robert Mugabe’s era, fuelling the current economic crunch.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
According to the looters’ list released by President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday, following the expiry of his 104-day moratorium, the bulk of the money was externalised through non-repatriation of export proceeds, payment for goods not received in Zimbabwe or funds externalised to foreign banks in cash or under spurious transactions.
Chinese nationals and big mining companies, where the government has interests, dominated the list of individuals and companies, who allegedly externalised huge sums of money released, prejudicing the troubled economy of almost $1 billion.
However, the list received mixed reactions from the public, politicians and business community, with some questioning why Zanu PF bigwigs believed to be involved in the scam were not listed, save for former musician-cum-politician Elias Musakwa who allegedly externalised $9 million to Portugal.
Others, however, hailed the move by Mnangagwa’s government, saying it promoted the spirit of accountability although the list fell short of public expectations.
Other than naming and shaming the “externalisers”, Mnangagwa has threatened legal action against them, although financial analysts warned that the legal route might prove difficult without first amending the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act.
Last Friday, former First Lady Grace Mugabe‚ widely speculated to be the main target of Mnangagwa’s call for funds to be returned‚ told a Sunday paper she had nothing to hide.
“We are honest people. We have no money outside‚” she said.
According to the list, the bulk of the money was deposited in Chinese, Botswana, South African, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Portuguese and Mozambican banks.
Several government-owned companies that were required to meet and satisfy the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) standards were surprisingly on the list.
They include Zimchem Refineries, Sandawana Mine, National Printing and Packaging, Printflow (Pvt) Limited, NetOne, Allied Timbers Zimbabwe and Sable Chemicals.
African Associated Mines dominated with reports that it externalised $62 049 622.
Former Chiadzwa diamond mining companies, accused of failing to properly abide to ethical business standards, stand accused of collectively externalising more than
Some of the companies were in joint ventures with the government.
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti said: “The list needs to be carefully studied because it shows what happens in our economy. While there are challenges around the criminalisation as I have said before, it is quite clear that there are a lot of illegal activities taking place and there are too many culprits there.
“There are a lot of shenanigans with the mines and traditionally mining houses have always been a source of illicit financial flows.
“The other thing coming particularly from category three of people just making cash transfers into the bank accounts, you find that almost 90% of the destinations is China. You will find out that almost 90% of the people who externalised that money are Chinese, but when you look at their footprint into the economy it is very small.”
Biti said there were many innocent people placed on the list. He also demanded that the RBZ release the time periods covered by the transactions as low levels of trust in the government led to the rise in underhand dealings.
“If you look at the list there are many innocent people whose names have been put there and more questions are raised and the legality of the situation is raised there. There is going to be a lot of litigation flying left, right and centre,” he said.
Human Rights Watch Southern Africa director, Dewa Mavhinga dismissed the list as a smokescreen.
“The so-called list of externalised funds is a smokescreen, it seems it is a list of exporters who did not comply with Reserve Bank requirements on CD1 forms,” he said.
“Publication of the list amounts to playing political gimmicks without actually doing anything about ‘externalisation’, a concept that so far remains undefined. Why publish names to shame individuals and companies without applying the law with regards prosecution? If this list is genuine, the Mnangagwa [administration] must invoke the law without casting aspersions.”
MDC-T secretary for finance and economic affairs, Tapiwa Mashakada dismissed the list as a Zanu PF public relations exercise to “protect real looters”.
“The fact that these companies are known means that the externalisation was known and, therefore, not illicit. The Reserve Bank kept records of exporters who did not acquit. So it is dishonest for government to seek cheap political capital by publishing a list of names of companies who are in the official business of exports. What this shows is that the government has backtracked on its initial intention of exposing individuals involved in real illicit financial outflows. By publishing a list dominated by companies, the government is simply posturing and actually camouflaging and protecting real culprits who are the big wigs in Zanu PF. On top of the list should be those who externalised $15 billion,” he said.