‘Looting’ law saga shows dysfunctionality at the heart of govt

Ndavaningi Mangwana

A LEOPARD does not change its spots, goes a popular saying. Essentially, it means it is not possible for a person to change their character, that their innate nature always comes to the fore, no matter how hard they try.

This is proving to be the case with regards to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose administration is lurching from one scandal to the next.

The latest is self-made and exposes everything that is rotten about this administration and its leaders that are turning the country into a haven of corruption without shame.

Last Friday, according to the Government Gazette, Mnangagwa under the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act attempted to hide from the public and the taxpayers how government — using taxpayers' money — buys or disposes of construction equipment and materials, biomedical and medical equipment, medicines and drugs (pharmaceuticals), vehicles including ambulances, laboratory equipment, chemicals and accessories, hospitals protective equipment and their repair or maintenance and machinery.

A whole government spokesperson in the name of Ndavaningi Mangwana told us on Twitter: “The idea is to disentangle purchases of emergency medical supplies or critical equipment repairs from the long-drawn procurement process.”

“So, the import of the General Notice is not to avoid public accountability but to allow lifesaving procurement.”

A few hours later, he tweeted the retraction statement by Sibanda, apparently without any shame or hint of irony.

Hours later, following a public outcry, we get another opaque statement by the Chief secretary in the Office of the President and the Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda: “Government wishes to advise the public that, on the instruction of His Excellency the President, the document in question has been rescinded as it has no standing at law, in policy and in terms of set government procedures. It thus should be disregarded as it has no standing at law, in policy and in terms of set government procedures. It thus should be disregarded.”

Interestingly, the government is not denying knowledge of the law, just that its release was premature. That in itself raises a whole gamut of questions about the way government is handling communications and how it communicates policy.

What is more worrying is that we have a government that is still pursuing an opaque way of running public affairs in a manner evidently designed to protect government and its officials in the money-spinning procurement process from public scrutiny and accountability.

We are left with many unanswered questions: Who is behind this aborted law? Who drafted it? What was the thinking behind it? Does the government actually expect us to believe that the higher powers were not aware of such a law? What does the sudden withdrawal tell us about the working dynamics of this administration?

In a normal administration heads would roll after such an embarrassing gaffe.

This kind of thing engenders a sense of a free for all in this administration and it exposes that looting of public resources is uppermost in the minds of its top officials.

The people who drafted this abortive law have no business being in government, certainly.

This sordid saga has laid bare the dysfunctionality at the heart of government.


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