Victoria Ruzvidzo In Focus
A few days ago, a WhatsApp video of a white man who spoke Shona fluently punctuated by a few English words caught my attention. Not so much for the way he spoke the language but more about the import of his message. He gave an illustration of how the developed and developing worlds treated financial resources differently resulting in better growth in the former compared to the latter.
He said of every $100 earmarked for projects in developed countries, $85 is allocated to the respective projects while $15 is lost to corruption. But in Africa it’s the other way round, in most instances $85 goes to line the pockets of government officials and others involved in the projects while $15 or much less is directed towards the actual projects.
I laughed, not that it was funny but quite sad actually. This has been the continent’s greatest undoing. It is so even in this country where we notice that a number of key projects have either been abandoned or delayed because the funds were frittered away through corrupt practices.
In some cases poor quality materials are then used to make up for the misused funds and the hatchet job has a way of then falling apart at the most inconvenient of times. We could name a number of key projects that are redundant or have not even started because the funds developed wings before anything could be done.
Some construction plans have been mothballed, nay abandoned, not because there were second thoughts but because the funds that had been earmarked for them found “better use” elsewhere. Not everyone is a thief, of course, but we have seen Government officials of not so huge means constructing big houses, driving big engines and living quite lavishly and yet they stammer and mumble when asked how they have made it on their salaries or even travel allowances.
Africa has missed most development goals such as the Millennium Development Goals and other such targets, not because it is poor and under-resourced but to a large extent the continent has shot itself in the foot due to corruption and misallocation of resources.
The continent would not need to take out bigger begging bowls all the time if it made effective use of its resources.
Zimbabwe, for instance, is replete with programmes and projects that went off-rail because the bulk of the allocated funds were used for personal gain at the expense of a national or local project that would have benefited its citizenry.
But at this hour of day, it is critical that we depart from such a way of life that corruption has become and begin to ensure that resources meant for a certain project are directed to where they are supposed to go.
Yesterday we heard that this country needs an immediate injection of at least $2 billion for it to tick. And indeed if we were to get such an amount, results would begin to show. But only if resources are used well.
President Mnangagwa has vehemently expressed his disdain towards corruption and we urge his Government officials to take heed and actually desist from any malpractices that are harmful to the economy.
We agree with the President that it is an issue that we cannot pay mere lip service to but that serious measures be put in place to safeguard the country’s resources from greedy individuals. Many need to repent sooner rather than later.
It is not a secret that in the past many have lined their pockets with funds meant for national projects and may actually find it difficult to start living on decent means. However, we urge them to try the normal life where you eat from what you hunt or gather. They will benefit from it, certainly in the long run.
Funds that this country harnesses should be spent on developing its socio-economic status. Once we do this, development partners will be keen to come to the party and help transform this country into a middle-income one by 2030 as desired by the President and all of us of course.
We know for certain that President Mnangagwa will not come from his trip to China empty-handed. Many pin their hopes on the fulfilment of pledges made so far and negotiations for more financing that Minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya have undertaken prior to and on the sidelines of the China-Africa Forum that ended in Beijing on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe was said to be seeking at least $2,5 billion in lines of credit from Chinese banks to on-lend to the private sector as the new Government steps up efforts to re-jig the economy.
Furthermore, China has pledged $60 billion to fuel African economies. This is no small change at all. Zimbabwe should be able to secure a sizeable amount of money from this facility. Simple mathematics would show that each country can access slightly over a billion if there was going to be equal distribution among the continent’s 55 countries.
However, we would not be naïve to think everyone will get a similar amount. We are sure assessment will be done to ascertain how the funds would be allocated. Those that are most hungry and with a good return on investment will get a bigger share naturally.
Zimbabwe should be well-positioned to get something out of this. The two countries have escalated relations to more engaging and more beneficial levels that will surely be translated into a more solid financial injection that this country is yearning for.
The continent needs to ensure the whole $60 billion, which comes on top of a similar figure pledged in 2015.
Reports from Beijing indicate that the funds will, among other things, be made up of $20 billion worth of lines of credit, $15 billion for grants, interest-free and concessionary loans, $10 billion for development finance and $5 billion to finance imports from the continent.
This is a good business deal for Africa which should make a world of difference. Once the package is rolled out, we expect to see an improvement in the continent’s development discourse. We insist every penny should be accounted for. Any hand found in the cookie jar must be cut off immediately.
Last time we checked, Zimbabwe needed more than $20 billion for infrastructure development alone. Roads, dams, bridges, irrigation systems, schools, hospitals, clinics and other infrastructure need real funding.
The private sector, which has been crying foul for being crowded out by Government on the domestic market, needs concessionary funding for retooling and raw materials among its requirements.
Other sectors are looking up to the powers-that-be to breathe life into them. This requires billions of dollars.
Therefore, whatever funding is secured must be properly budgeted for and allocated intelligently to foster development. Thus there is no room for any oiling of hands, bribes and any form of greed.
The Auditor and Comptroller General’s audit report must be put to full use to ensure that any untoward behaviour is dealt with decisively. Everyone must be held to account and systems must be revamped or completely new ones introduced to plug any loopholes.
Ms Mildred Chiri, the Auditor and Comptroller General, has often come up with real cases of financial mismanagement and even provided leads but from where we stand, we have not seen much action being taken as she recommends but instead efforts have been made to sweep some dirt under the carpet.
But the woman is made of sterner stuff. She will not budge. She has it all well-documented.
We are almost certain President Mnangagwa will find her reports quite useful.
It should be all systems go in transforming this country. Coming up with a national whistle-blowers fund and other such strategies will help ensure that only very few coins will go missing while the bulk goes towards rebuilding this country.
In God I Trust!