Lloyd Gumbo Mr Speaker Sir
It goes without saying that red tape has been one of the major drivers of corruption in the country, as investors both local and foreign are frustrated until they accept to bribe.
CHINESE investment running into billions of dollars is expected to take off this year following marathon meetings that a delegation from China’s National Development and Reform Commission had with Zimbabwe’s authorities, including President Mugabe and Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week.
It was announced after the meeting with President Mugabe that the Chinese would immediately unveil funding for all the identified projects, the majority of them key economic enablers.
It is evident that as a country we need capital injection to transform the economy.
After all, we have the resources compared to other African countries whose economies are on the rise despite the fact that they don’t have as many and as diverse natural resources as we do.
There is, however, a major problem with Zimbabwe, whether real or imagined when it comes to foreign investors.
President Mugabe is on record castigating ministers and senior Government officials who abuse their positions by demanding kickbacks from potential investors when they are approached.
“We have a problem these days where some ministers, when potential investors approach them with an interest of investing in our nation they tell them that for them to organise a meeting with the President there is money required for the party. This is clearly putting the name of the party into disrepute,” said President Mugabe while addressing thousands who thronged Victoria Falls for the 21st February Movement celebrations early this year.
“Some of them also say if the project is to be discussed seriously there is a certain amount of money that is required; some even go to certain companies and demand that they be paid so that the company remains ‘protected’. This is a fact; you all know them, expose them; the youths are supposed to expose these people. This is clearly being patriotic.”
If truth be told without fear or favour, there is general scepticism among Zimbabweans about investment in the country.
They have seen and heard so much to the extent that any news about investment does not excite them anymore.
They believe only crumbs will find their way to the majority while the bulk will be pocketed by those in higher offices.
Whether justified or misplaced, those fears are real and the earlier Government deals with the concerns, the better.
One of the major problems with our investment environment are the bureaucratic processes that investors have to go through before they start operating.
Before opening shop, they are expected to go through various ministries and Government departments to register and get clearance.
It goes without saying that red tape has been one of the major drivers of corruption in the country as investors both local and foreign are frustrated until they accept to bribe.
They are reportedly told to fork out huge sums of money for facilitation.
Often times, we hear of such words as “what’s in it for me?” from officials whose primary mandate is to facilitate the same.
What is also important to note is that sometimes ministers’ names are abused by those around them or their runners.
Whether by commission or omission, some ministers let this continue despite getting wind of how their names are abused.
It is however difficult to ascertain the innocence or culpability of these ministers given the opaqueness that surrounds these deals.
It is also possible that some ministers use their “runners” to do the dirty work for them in order to avoid leaving a trail.
People who are close to ministers have a tendency to frustrate efforts by anyone to access ministers or any public officials.
They do this as a way of demonstrating their importance and links to important Government officials.
We shouldn’t wait for one to fall out of favour with the ruling party or from grace for their shenanigans to be exposed just, as what happened with former vice president Joice Mujuru.
The law must be for everyone, as such if one is found to be corrupt, they must be shipped out regardless of their position in society.
What is clear is that the State has the resources at its disposal to sniff out corrupt activities.
It is against this background that Government must put mechanisms in place to ensure that all investment deals are handled by mandated authorities and not fly-by-night pseudo consultants or officials.
Pledges by the Chinese, once transparently implemented, have the potential to take this country forward.
These mega-deals can only be successful if the right mechanisms are put in place to ensure that there are no leakages.
Every cent must be accounted for if the country is to rebrand itself.
There is need for vigilance to ensure that all the identified projects are implemented based on the right prices given that in the past, prices have been inflated by locals as a way to get a bite of the deal.
Government must, starting with these mega-deals, adopt zero tolerance to leakages and any form of kickbacks by tightening the procurement and adjudication processes.
While Government may approve numerous major deals to address developmental problems in the country, as long as corruption thrives the projects won’t count for anything.
There are reports that some prospective investors ended up shunning Zimbabwe because of the demand by Government officials for kickbacks.
It is therefore clear that once Government takes major steps to fight corruption, this will naturally attract the much-needed investment that will go a long way in enhancing socio-economic development.
Mr Speaker Sir, studies indicate that corruption thrives in countries where the legislature and the judiciary are weak.
The onus is, therefore, on the legislature to ensure that Zimbabwe is corruption-free by passing deterrent laws.
Public officials must know that stealing public funds will see them spend the better part if not the rest of their lives in prison.
Until and unless we have such laws, corruption in the public sector will remain a lifestyle regardless of the rhetoric against it.
Corruption is the greatest enemy against development that all Zimbabweans, regardless of status, colour or political affiliation, must fight with utmost vigour.