By Reason Wafawarova
WE have had an outcry over the lavish spending by George Guvamatanga, the country’s Treasury Chief Accounting Officer; who recently splashed hundreds of thousands of dollars on his fiftieth birthday, which he says was his idea of celebrating life after he survived a bout of Covid 19 a year ago.
It is very important to ensure transparency when dealing with public funds or implementing public policy. Guvamatanga publicly and proudly received a $100 000 gift from Kuda Tagwireyi at his birthday party, and it seems it does not occur to him that Kuda Tagwireyi has multiple business deals with Treasury, and as such his gift is a breach of public trust.
Guvamatanga takes us on the diversionary path of explaining he started work at the age of 17 as a university graduate at Barclays Bank, serving the international bank for a purported 30 years, coming out of the system a multi-millionaire with various business interests in our economy. This amazing story is quite colorful, but it is entirely beside the point.
Let me take a look at our Harare-Beitbridge Road to illustrate my point on the issue of transparency and public trust.
When tenders for our road projects were advertised, Engineer Chinyanga was a director at the Ministry of Transport. After one year he was promoted to Perm Sec for the newly created Housing Ministry.
Within three months he was transferred back to the Ministry of Transport as Permanent Secretary, where a year before he was implicated in the scandal of the collapsed newly built Chimanimani Road that fell victim to Cyclone Idai.
The contractor responsible was Masimba, who is now contracted on the Beitbridge-Harare Road as well.
Masimba was once Murray and Roberts, now bought by a consortium led by Paddy Zhanda with Canada Malunga as the Group CEO.
The public has not been informed as should be the case that there are five contractors doing the Beitbridge Harare Road, each contracted a stretch of 20 km at a time, renewable on completion at a new negotiated price until the 750 km are completed.
As of now, the five contractors have completed 240 km of the project, and they are largely doing a decent job.
These are Bitumen World whose ownership remains a mystery with inside speculation linking the company to members of the First Family, Masimba Holdings, Tensor Systems owned by Eng Musowe, a reputable hardworking man said to have been awarded the contract because of his connections to Eng Chinyanga; then Exodus whose bidding was pushed by shady army generals recently involved in the Mabvazuva land scandal.
The directors of Exodus are not in the public domain, and at the time of awarding, Exodus had no experience whatsoever in road construction, struggling so much it had to subcontract the last 12 km of its first project to Bitumen.
Lastly there Fossil, owned by one Obey Chimuka who is a close family relative to Kuda Tagwireyi, said to be the real owner of the company.
Each contractor has a negotiated price for its work that is strictly confidential and is not known to the public or to other contractors. This is not how a government runs public policy. Transparency is key to accountability, and the people of Zimbabwe have a right to know the cost of each public project funded by the tax payer.
Here is the deal. The contractors are paid in local currency and are given preferential treatment in accessing foreign currency through the auction system.
They get their payment in local currency which they use to go buy foreign currency at the auction at the rate of Z$85 or RTGS for US$1. They get rid of the foreign currency at between Z$170 and Z$180 on the thriving black market, fuelling it in the process, much against the whole idea behind the auction system.
They make a killing of the local currency, and they use the loot to get twice the amount of foreign currency back at the auction, use part of the foreign currency to import equipment for road construction, and the cycle goes on and on.
Treasury authorises these foreign currency purchases at the auctions, and the RBZ supplies the foreign currency. At the end of this tunnel sits one George Guvamatanga, as the authorising officer for foreign currency purchases.
This is the man who accepts a gift from a man closely related to the owner of one of our contracted companies, and himself directly involved with similar forex benefits through his energy, transport and mining companies also contracted to provide goods and services for the government.
He is going to watch his favorite EPL team Arsenal with his family for a total cost of US$50 000, courtesy of our most generous contractor who lately has been doing sports washing to spruce his scandalous image the ways the Sheiks are doing buying soccer teams in Europe and even Australia.
Tagwireyi has associated his business person with the glory of Highlanders FC and Dynamos FC in a move quite common with illicitly wealthy people wanting to clean their money or spruce up their images. But that is another topic for another day – sports washing.
The positives we can draw is that we have local companies providing services and contracted to build our roads and to service other areas of national development. That is what we have always cried for.
There are companies like Chiswell owned by Ian Alroy Fourier who are well equipped, and it would have been better to give them a nod ahead of the likes of Exodus, who I understand are struggling to do a decent job in time. There is also Truck Hospital in Bulawayo, and others.
It appears the public works going on could be part of a clandestine network of terrible boys doing terrible stuff with public funds in the name of Vision 2030.
But again not everyone is evil intended. What happens where things are done in secrecy and there is no traceable methods of accountability is that people will distrust, speculate and spread rumours and half-truths.
This is the chaos that corruption thrives on. Where is our Parliament? Distracted in recall politics and by-election debates – essentially power politicking while the smart boys are looting, sorry making money.
I now understand why the President told his audience at UZ that you do not need any ideology if your are making money – totally dismissing the idea that ZANU-PF or our government are guided by some kind of ideology.
“When you are making money, do you ask what ideology is bringing you that money?” our President asked with that aplomb of a statesman who believed he was talking ultimate wisdom and sense.
Even hardcore far-right capitalists will give their ideology when explaining their economic model, so will center-right capitalists, so will far left ideologists, center-left, and so on. Labour parties and democrats will tell you of welfare capitalism, meaning workers and the masses ahead of business, while liberals will tell you business ahead of the workers and masses, then the trickle-down effect.
Our President is not in the least worried about ideology because it makes no sense to him that people making money should bother answering questions about ideology or principles.
I am writing this for the benefit of every reader and every Zimbabwean, but more so for members of ZANU-PF, the party I have associated my political beliefs with since the age of ten.
I do not expect ZANU-PF to accept that it no longer has an ideology, to accept that its government can do clandestine deals that are hidden from the public eye for the benefit of a few, and to accept that it can be hijacked by profiteers who will use its name to enrich themselves at the expense of all others.
- Wafawarova is a political writer based in Sydney, Australia.