corruptionwatch:WITH TAWANDA MAJONI
At common law, you become a natural accomplice if the cops find you warming yourself at a bonfire where thieves are sharing the loot. Bad company makes you bad too, and that seems to be the case with our president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
History will not be that kind with him for supping with the devil. Take Kuda Tagwireyi, for instance. They call him Queen Bee. He is the major shareholder at Sakunda Holdings. Tagwirei hails from Shurugwi, a shout away from Mnangagwa’s Zvishavane. He is also an adviser to the president as he sits on the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC).
Queen Bee is a bad choice for an ally. Even before Mnangagwa took over from the late Robert Mugabe in 2017, Tagwirei was already tainted. His company, Sakunda, was in partnership with the Mugabes’ son-in-law, Derrick Chikore, elder brother to Simba, Bona’s husband. They set up the Dema power plant in Seke, without going to tender. That’s a sure case of corruption.
If Mnangagwa was serious with his talk on fighting corruption, the first person that must have been taken into the dock is Tagwirei, but that didn’t happen. What happens? Mnangagwa not only makes him his adviser, but also retains a tender for Sakunda to manage the command agriculture project.
Lots of bad things have been happening with that project. Up to now, many of us — and that includes the Auditor General, Mildred Chiri — can’t have access to the contract that was given to Sakunda. Funny enough, Mnangagwa’s office is supervising the command agriculture scheme. It doesn’t end there. As Chiri pointed out in her latest report, Sakunda was a referee and player in the scheme. It was procuring and then distributing farming inputs at the same time.
That’s conflict of interest. And conflict of interest sleeps in the same bed with corruption. This is easy to understand. Sakunda is reported to have connived with other suppliers to inflate the prices of inputs, taking home mega-millions in the process. That hasn’t been refuted by anyone. There is nothing to show for what Sakunda has been doing because people are still hungry and the country is still a net importer of food. Don’t start blaming that on climate change. If climate change will always make it difficult to produce food, then there is no need to carry on with command agriculture, a scheme that they told us was the panacea to our food hunger.
But if that’s very bad news, wait for this. The government has just renewed the command agriculture contract with Sakunda, making available close to US$3 billion dollars for that. They learnt nothing and forgot everything. They haven’t done an audit of the previous schemes. That means they — Mnangagwa at the top — haven’t bothered to redress the sins that Sakunda has been committing. Something is fishy here, isn’t?
You can imagine what that US$3 billion would do for Zimbabwe. We have a power debt of only US$100 million. We don’t have chemicals to treat our water. There isn’t enough money to buy fuel.
The taxpayer will have to shoulder the burden of repaying the billions that were lost in previous schemes. As if that’s not enough, the taxpayer will certainly have to shoulder the extra burden of leakages that will come with the renewed command agriculture scheme. And these are the people that Mthuli Ncube is already bleeding dry through his cruel tax regime.
But the issue is not about command agriculture as such. It’s about Sakunda. It’s about Queen Bee and Mnangagwa. This is the same Sakunda that, only a few days ago, had its bank accounts frozen by the central bank. The story out there is that when Sakunda got money for the new command agriculture project cycle, it went onto the forex black market and started doing bad things there. The result was that rates shot through the roof and prices of commodities did the same thing.
Acie Lumumba — we don’t mind who had sent him to say what he said — some time ago accused Queen Bee of being one of the chaps that were keeping the forex black market kicking. He is said to have been using money obtained from government to buy forex on the black market. Queen Bee has never denied that.
It is, therefore, puzzling why Mnangagwa has decided to keep Queen Bee on his side, despite all the odds. Clearly, what Tagwirei is being accused of has an acutely negative effect on the president’s standing. The more prices rises, the less popular Mnangagwa becomes. It’s now becoming a hard sell to blame Zimbabwe’s economic crisis on sanctions. Because it’s clear that the likes of Queen Bee are responsible for that.
By implication, Mnangagwa is also responsible for the crisis because he is keeping bad company. As already said, if you are found dining with a thief, it becomes difficult to believe that you not a thief too.
l Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust and can be contacted on email@example.com.