THERE is no end in sight to the Mutapa Investment Fund controversy. First, President Emmerson Mnangagwa gazetted Statutory Instrument 156 of 2023 which changed the name of the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe to Mutapa Investment Fund.
The statutory instrument also brought 20 State-owned entities under one roof.
These companies are Defold Mine, Zupco, Kuvimba Mining House, Silo investments, National Oil Company of Zimbabwe, Cold Storage Commission Limited, Petrotrade, People’s Own Savings Bank (POSB), NetOne, National Railways of Zimbabwe, TelOne, Arda Seeds, Zimbabwe Power Company, PowerTel Communications, Allied Timbers, Telecel, Air Zimbabwe, Industrial Development Corporation, Cottco and Hwange Colliery Company.
Mnangagwa struck again last week by gazetting General Notice 1546 of 2023 which exempted Mutapa Investment Fund from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act.
Mutapa becomes a super parastatal only answerable to itself. According to the notice, Mutapa got the special dispensation as it is operating in competitive markets. This means that it must not be harassed by the scrutiny that comes from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act.
The bulk of the companies housed under the fund are underperforming amid fears it will become the amalgamation of weak institutions to create one very weak State entity.
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Although most of these entities are technically insolvent, judging by Auditor-General’s reports, there is a need to have them subjected to public scrutiny.
POSB has been earmarked for partial privatisation which would result in some of its shares being listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. Air Zimbabwe has not recovered from bad management practices over the years while Zupco has become a monopoly for incompetence.
We are of the view that Parliament should have oversight on the Mutapa Investment and should have come up with legislation to make it work better. The over-reliance on delegated legislation in the form of statutory instruments muddies the waters at a time the administration is accused of creating the Mutapa Investment Fund as a looting platform.
This lends credence to those accusations if the fund is shielded from scrutiny. This means that it can procure at inflated prices, and no one will question that. It can also dispose of assets for a song, and no one should flag that.
The speed at which this administration has moved in protecting the Mutapa Fund cannot go unchallenged. The timing is also wrong given the first session of the 10th Parliament begins this week. Mnangagwa will open the 10th Parliament tomorrow.
We exhort Parliament and civil society organisations to take government to task on the Mutapa issue. If Mutapa is for the future generations, it must undergo scrutiny.
In his inaugural address in 2017, Mnangagwa said “we must always remember and realise that we hold and run this country in trust”.
“It belongs to future generations whose possibilities must never be foreclosed or mortgaged as a result of decisions of expediency we might selfishly make today out of fear of difficult choices and decisions that have to be made,” he said then. What has changed since 2017, Mr President?