Editorial Comment: Dr Chombo, the ball is in your court

zimpapersEarly last month, we published a story based on a December 2013 report by consulting engineer Mr Peter Morris in which the expert highlighted that a water deal between the City of Harare and China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation could have been inflated to the tune of US$100 million.

As has become the norm with some public officials in Zimbabwe, city authorities tried to deny that there was something horribly amiss with the deal that was signed in 2010 by Town Clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi and CMEC.

No one in Zimbabwe’s public office has ever done anything wrong. Everything bad about the economy, infrastructure, water, electricity, education, health and sport is as a result of some natural cause or sanctions.

Our public officials are, apparently, hardworking angels who have never put a foot wrong and we should all be eternally grateful that they take their precious time to serve us – for hefty salaries, of course.

Yesterday, we carried another story on how the City of Harare could lose 733,9 hectares of land because of the Airport Road deal with Augur Investments.

From the word go, questions have always been raised about the costing of the project and the awarding of the contract.
Again, as is natural with our super-perfect public officials, the media were just criticising for the sake of criticising.

Never mind that people have a genuine expectation of transparency from these offices, moreso when the deals mean the public lose tens of millions of dollars in spectacularly opaque circumstances.

Regarding the Airport Road mess-up, one of the readers of The Herald Online, Wilson Magaya, made a very interesting observation yesterday.
He said, “7,4 million square metres. Wow this was an ill-structured deal by the city. This comes to a whopping 88 million (US) dollars of council land at a conservative price of US$12 (per square metre).”

By any measure and standard, the deal is simply illogical. Not so for our public authorities.
What we would like to see now is action from Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo on the Augur Investments Airport Road contract, the CMEC water infrastructure rehabilitation deal, and many other deals at the City of Harare and other local authorities over past years.

Dr Chombo will be well aware that a significant proportion of the public is not exactly enamoured of how he has handled certain local government issues, especially his reinstatement of Harare Town Clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi after he had been suspended by city mayor Mr Bernard Manyenyeni.

Dr Mahachi had been suspended for reportedly failing to furnish council with a full schedule of what he and other senior managers at the municipality were earning.

Much of the public thought that the suspension would indeed pave way for some sort of investigation into the salaries issue at Town House, and that Dr Chombo almost immediately reinstated him certainly raised eyebrows.

There is a perception in some quarters that the Harare town clerk and Dr Chombo are a little too cosy.
It would be quite welcome to see a robust response from Dr Chombo at least on the Airport Road Augur Investments and CMEC water rehabilitation deals.

We know that Dr Chombo is capable of robust action as seen by his interventions on alleged and proven corruption by councillors.
It would be good to see the same stern response to alleged corruption, abuse of office and sometimes sheer ineptitude on the part of municipal managers.

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  • Nyoka Musango

    I had to really check again the title of the web page. Each time it keeps telling me its “The Herald”. Is anyone lost as I am? Whoever is in charge now, keep it up!!!

    • dusty

      Zanu politics at play, Mai Mujuru was right.

    • Hacha Ndizvo

      This Editor is simply writing his dismissal letter – mark my words. On the other hand me thinks that if this deal is so unreasonable then any competent court of law will reverse it for being inimical to the public interest. It is also ironic that Chombo should be the custodian of public interest but if my memory serves me right successive previous council launched spirited efforts to annul this deal but Chombo personally threw spanners into the effort and declared that the deal was in the public interest. He ordered the council to back off and declared that the project was a national project and had been approved in cabinet. So Mr. Editor your call for action is directed at the wrong person. The people that should be investigated are Chombo and Mahachi.

    • Chikara CheZanu

      Even I was shocked when I scrolled up to see I was ACTUALLY reading the Herald. This is to be applauded because that is the role of a truly effective press. So far, everyone wants to know who is protecting Chombo? The allegations against him are so glaring and it is disturbing he has continued to be in office and do more damage for so long.

  • Guranyanga

    In fact we can build 14,000 low cost housing units on 733 hectares.I say this is a bad deal and if the ever suffering Zimbo pays Augur the 88 milion dollars for the contract it is suffice to say it is the taxpayer who pays Zinara again.Now that is not on, Mr Editor,while some people are stuffing their pockets by the latest Merc some people can’t afford two meals a day.Minister Chombo should institute investigations on what went wrong with this deal.Its not good enough to just cancel the deal and transfer it to a government ministry, and say case closed.This money can build two state of the art hospitals or create jobs for thousands of people.Not even a tree in sight or a rock and a 20km road on a flat plain takes more than 5 years! my foot.

  • Murehwa

    What the Herald is implying is very clear, the Minister is involved in both transactions that’s why he is not acting. It would be naive for us to expect him to investigate himself. It’s just that a sense of impunity that has engulfed him to an extend that he will not act, and no one else will until the issue blows over.
    Augur’s Investments’ registered address for the contract is the same address as Minister Chombo’s company Harvest Nest’s address, mere coincidence, no ways. The company registered in Europe, shares a local address with the minister clearly shows who actually owns that company. When the land deal is signed, no one knows how much value was attached to the land for purposes of the transaction. Project

    Herald keep on the good works, please do not stop until action is taken, hopefully by the President himself.

  • Mimi

    Of course Chombo and Mahachi’s union are a little too cosy for comfort. Infact Chombo himself has made errors and mistakes that would even amaze even a small toddler. It is an enigma why Chombo still clings to his portfolio and moreso why the President himself tends to trust Chombo to this extent. Why not change him to some other Ministry, if only to taste the waters and see what happens and will come out. Unless the Powers that Be themselves are aware of what might come out then let’s stop mourning about Chombo.

  • dusty

    So to who exactly is Dr I. Chombo answerable to?
    And is he answering?
    Or is the person/people/body asking anything of him?

  • Benjamin

    Seems you now on the right track Herald. Good and balanced reporting for a change!!!

  • Matsimba

    The time has come to right the wrongs of many decades. The minister should come clean on his role in these highly serious allegations. Failure to do so he will then be considered to be as guilty as alleged. The minister, like everyone else, is innocent until proven guilty & has constitutional rights to seek legal advice.

    However, my personal advice to the Minister is that it’s time to pack your bags and seek leniency from the public, by offering an apology for the wrongdoing perpetrated under your watch. Don’t be tempted to think that it’s better to hang around and pull the strings to confuse auditors through surrogates. It will worsen the already terrible situation.

  • Regai Tsunga

    Ndafara fani Editor woye ngemasoko enyu angovhura madziso. Ndinowimba kuti SaChombo wachaekita ngenzira kwayo.
    KwaMutare kunewo nyaya ye Meikles Park irikunzi yakatengeswa zvisina tsarukano. Will you please be kind enough to investigate the circumstances of the disposal of this prime public open space, hitherto kindly donated to the residents of Mutare. Some public official must have corruptly benefited from the deal. Please let us know too.
    Ndatenda hangu

  • Tofara Tose

    Herald, I wish you have been doing this right from the start. You comment is well balanced and to the point. Of course I realise that you cannot mention that Minister Chombo was particularly harsh to MDC mayors and councillors but it is clearly implied. Editor you are on the right track. Corruption is not a political issue nor is it a sanctions issue. It is simply criminal. You have a lot to do sir but a journey of a thousand miles start with a first step. Do not look back. All corrupt officials should shiver at the simply mention of the word “Herald” Where it is legally possible identify the culprits to shame them so that they would never be allowed to hold public office again. Within your journalists there are some who have excellent investigative skills and i believe they can do wonders to put Zimbabwe way up in the league of least corrupt countries.

  • mafirakureva

    Mr Editor , why dont just be open and call for the dismissal of Chombo, the man has destroyed all councils in Zimbabwe

  • Mr Cool

    We are watching the dawn of a new era in Zimbabwe where public officials are exposed named and shamed.I have been reading our Zimbabwean newspapers over the years from abroad but never bothered to contribute not because I was selfish but due to the political inclination of the debates.Now I can see a new dimension is unfolding which brings hope to our beloved land of milk and honey and I salute the current legislators and especially the Jonathan Moyos and company for their efforts please keep it up.