THIS has been a terrible week for President Emmerson Mnangagwa. It has been more than terrible – a week in which government was always on the backfoot. A week during which the regime’s sterility has been exposed beyond any shadow of doubt.
The week started with the government admitting its culpability – actually its criminal act – when it signed procurement contracts for personal protection equipment with briefcase companies.
Not only were the companies – Drax International LLC and Jaji Investments – briefcase companies, but there was corruption, price inflating and a shroud of secrecy stinking to the high heavens.
It is important at this juncture to take a brief detour and regurgitate Mnangagwa’s promises when he assumed power via a coup in November 2017. Mnangagwa promised a clean government, a robust fight against corruption and a new trajectory of economic recovery and development.
He declared war against businesses that externalised money to tax havens. Mnangagwa actually went ahead and released names of nearly a thousand companies — may of them Chinese firms. The promise was just thunder signifying nothing. It turned out to be a big ruse.
In July 2018 during the presidential election campaign, Mnangagwa upped the ante as a reformist.
He campaigned on the platform of affordable healthcare for all, creation of jobs, clean and affordable energy, better quality education and infrastructure development. The manifesto looked too good to be true, but Zimbabweans and international community gave him the benefit of doubt and loudly called for the man to be given a chance.
However, the reformist façade was ripped off violently before the votes had been counted, revealing the disaster dictator that ED is. Not only is he a neoliberal but also a man who had no qualms dealing with companies linked to his family for lucrative State contracts.
Drax International was given contracts worth US$60 million to supply medical equipment and sundries without going to tender. The media together with its patriotic sources in government exposed the rot. They published the dubious contracts and pierced the corporate veil of the company. Mnangagwa was exposed — the emperor has no clothes.
Drax is fronted by a convicted criminal and Mnangagwa associate Delish Nguwaya. In the shadows is the President’s son — Collins. The First Family was feasting from the public trough. Even the venerated technocrats at Treasury — banker George Guvamatanga and Oxford economics don Mthuli Ncube set ethics aside to approve the deals that had Mnangagwa’s fingerprints all-over.
The other company that got a lucrative contract was Namibian domiciled Jaji Investments. It is a company linked to the First Family too. And like Drax, Jaji investments was awarded the contract without going to tender.
Mnangagwa at long last, like Adam in bible covering his loins with fig tree leaves, instructed the cancellation of Drax contracts. However, the act should be seen for it really is – a act of closing the stables after the horses had bolted. No mention was made of what will happen to the monies already wired to banks outside Zimbabwe’s jurisdiction.
In the same week, Zanu PF politburo met and made some perfunctory noises against corruption and perceived entities alleged to be driving the unrelenting devaluation of the local currency against the greenback. Reserve Bank governor John Mangudya and Treasury boss Ncube admitted to the politburo that the economy was in the woods. The two moneybags fell short of pointing the accusatory finger at Zanu PF — a party where the honchos are in a race for primitive accumulation of wealth to mind the development of the State.
The economy is floundering, inflation has spiralled and the average Zimbabwean is much poorer than he/she was pre-November 2017. Mnangagwa had promised a pie in the sky. Social unrest is looming and like the proverbial fire ready to consume the regime.
In a well-choreographed move, the Joint Operations Command – a group of the security chiefs and security ministers — for the third time since independence spoke directly to the citizens denying that another coup was looming on the horizon. It threatened to take retributive acts against MDC Alliance deputy national chairman Job Sikhala, G40 kingpin Saviour Kasukuwere and a coterie of preachers who have been proselyting about the deteriorating economic and social conditions.
This is ominous. On two other occasions JOC made a direct address to citizens was in March 2002 and November 2017. In 2002, the statement was issued ahead of the presidential election and the service chiefs said the presidency was a straitjacket and they would not salute a person who did not go to war. The 2017 address was to announce a coup.
As the country burns, Mnangagwa has called for National Day of Prayer and Fasting. The last card it has to pacify the restless citizens. A prayer does not stop corruption, abuse of power or arrest the falling local currency. Maybe, the President wants to atone for his sins, fake promises and sterility in taking action.
Former Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane got it correct when he tweeted: “Apa wataura zvine musoro. Mnangagwa imbavha, atadza kutonga nyika. Ngaende. If #blacklivesmatter then that must be true here in Africa as well. Mnangagwa must stop abusing the people.”
Let him pray for his atonement but Zimbabwe needs able leaders.
Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist based in Harare. He writes here in personal capacity.