By Eddie Cross 28 September 2013
I came home this weekend to find our suburb in darkness – at about 20.00 hrs the lights came back on and when I got up at just after five this morning they were still on but went out at 07.00 hrs and we do not expect the lights to be back until midday. After four years of intense struggle to get the power situation normalized, the MDC Minister, Elton Mangoma, was able to get power supplies back onto some semblance of normalcy, why this has not remained the case in the few weeks since he stepped down, is a mystery to me.
Elton is a Chartered Accountant and runs a large business of his own, he is also a tough character and very determined. He achieved a great deal in the three short years he was in the Ministers seat – sorting out the national liquid fuels situation after more than a decade of shortages and queues, he stopped the rampant corruption in the State fuel agencies and was able to start the long process of getting the power sector sorted out. The major power plants were all repaired and stabilized, unpaid debts with regional power utilities were sorted out and two major contracts issued to bring major new power generation capacity into production. Prepaid meters were rolled out and in the last few months of his tenure, power supplies were actually quite normal. He unbundled the Electricity and liquid fuels State Corporations, established a new Energy Regulator and rationalized retail distribution.
Anyone who knows anything about Governments and sensitive areas such as energy will recognise the above as an astonishing achievement – without a cent of international assistance. It was not without resistance – he was jailed twice on spurious charges after he moved to stop the high level corruption that had seen the former running elite siphon off about US$150 million a year from the State agencies trading in fuel. When he stepped down fuel was in free supply at prices below the rest of the region and electricity supplies were almost back to normal.
The new Minister will find this a hard act to follow – the new Government has undermined the fragile financial stability of the electricity sector by abolishing the outstanding debts owed to the utility and passing a credit to all who are paid up to date. At a stroke this wiped out hundreds of millions of dollars of debt assets and has seen revenues plunging. Regional suppliers who were happy to step in with support when we were short, now ask if we are able to pay our bills? Talk of resurrecting the Zimbabwe dollar and with it the associated ills of exchange control and import controls, have seen all suppliers withhold deliveries in case they are caught with hundreds of millions of dollars of debt inside Zimbabwe that simply cannot be serviced. Suddenly shortages have resurfaced – there are long power outages and fuel stations are running out of fuel.
When Tendai Biti was appointed the Minister of Finance in 2009 he walked into a Ministry with no resources at all. Total tax receipts were about $25 million a month and civil servants were getting $5 a month in the local currency. In year one he raised revenues to $75 million a month, year two it was $140 million a month, year three $200 million a month and in year four $250 million a month. This was ten times what was available to the State at the start of the GNU. But just as significantly he rebuilt the team at the Ministry, got the systems working again and began the long process of reengagement with the multilaterals and restoring confidence in the Ministry and the Government. By 2013 these goals were largely achieved – in the process 70 per cent of all new legislation adopted by the State since 2008 was generated and negotiated through the system by Tendai. He never missed a payroll in four years. This was a remarkable achievement and reflected his personal capacity as an intellectual, outstanding lawyer and strategist.
In the Ministry of Health a young Minister by the name of Henry Madzorera took over and when he did we had 150 000 cases of cholera, 60 000 deaths from TB, 30 000 deaths from Malaria, 17 000 deaths of mothers in child birth and 150 000 deaths a year from Aids. The death toll had risen to over 300 000 a year and life expectancy fallen to 34 years on average from over 60 in 1997. All State Hospitals were hardly functioning. Clinics were closed and medical supplies almost unobtainable. The flight of trained personnel was endemic and massive. This quiet, unassuming doctor from Kwe Kwe had an immediate impact – in the following year cholera deaths fell to zero, all other indictors slowly began to improve. The Minister rarely made a speech but worked solidly with his team in the Ministry on resolving the many challenges he faced. New Boards were appointed to all State Hospitals and corrupt and negligent staff dismissed.
A similar transformation was seen in education – in 2008 3,2 million children in State schools saw their classrooms for 23 days in the year, virtually all failed their final exams when they were set and conducted, those that did sit did not have their papers marked and graded. Two thirds of all girls of school going age were not in school. Tens of thousands of experienced and qualified teachers left the country for greener pastures. Those that went to school had no textbooks and learning materials. In the decade prior to 2008 a whole generation of children graduated from school being neither literate nor numerate.
In two years 96 per cent of all primary age children were in school on a full time basis. 80 000 trained teachers were back in the class room supported by another 30 000 untrained teachers. Pass rates improved and in four years they were almost back to where they had been 20 years earlier. The Minister, Dave Coltart, took over a Ministry where 80 per cent of his Head Office staff was not coming to work and the Head Office was virtually derelict and dysfunctional. I visited the Ministry with a query in 2009 and wondered through 4 floors of the building before I found a single officer on duty and present.
This was the direct result of MDC leadership being placed in charge of government Ministries. A similar countdown for Zanu PF administered Ministries reveals no changes and few advances in any field. In fact for four years the Zanu PF team in the Cabinet did everything they could to impede progress and reform in every field. Of the 37 line item reforms agreed in the GPA only the new Constitution was achieved and even that was heavily compromised and was not implemented before the elections that terminated the arrangements.
In the field of diamond mining, Zimbabwe became one of the top diamond producers in the world over the period 2006 to 2011 with annual production peaking at over 30 million carats valued at $3,5 billion dollars. The record of Zanu PF in this field was uniformly disgraceful – when they appreciated the significance of the find in 2006 they took it away from the legal claim holders in the form of ACR Limited of London. In 2008 when they recognised its significance for them, they took it away from the 40 000 informal sector miners who had occupied the fields, gunning them down with live fire and chasing them with dogs if they resisted. Then they installed new mining operations and simply took over the production and sales of all diamonds from the fields.
The revenues vanished – total payments to the treasury from nearly $12 billion dollars in sales over 8 years were a paltry $250 million. The Minister of mines became a multi millionaire buying assets and property as if he was child in a candy store. Mbada Diamonds mysteriously became a huge benefactor – pouring money into the Presidents fund for scholarships ($70 million a year) an input scheme for farmers in rural areas and buying several new long and short haul jets for a bankrupt Air Zimbabwe (registered in the Far East and dry leased with crews to the national carrier).
The Chinese through a network of private companies across the world laundered the diamonds into overseas markets in Israel, Belgium, India and China. They undertook many high profile projects in Zimbabwe worth hundreds of millions of dollars all paid for by diamond money that should have gone to the Treasury. Then when the time came to bring the GPA to an end they pumped an estimated $800 million dollars into the Zanu PF campaign to secure its power and control over the State and to achieve regional recognition.
Now we face another 5 years under Zanu PF leadership, is there any hope for any of us? The reality is that the Zanu PF team is unchanged from the team that virtually destroyed the economy from 1997 to 2008. This is the same old tired and corrupt gang that we have had to contend with for 33 years. With one big difference, they now have to perform, they have to deliver or they will run the risk of losing power and control in the next elections. We are still in a transition and the next five years will see continued pressure for change and reform. Should they fail to deliver what they have promised, the consequences for them are dire and they know that. This means that they will have to change – indigenisation will be downplayed and reformed into a more acceptable form, they will clamp down on corruption without looking backwards, they will start to restore commercial agriculture. In fact it is my information that much of the new economic blueprint that is being touted around by the President’s Office right now, is based on the MDC manifesto.
This poses a different sort of challenge to the MDC leadership – the challenge to compete with Zanu PF in the development and change field – in Parliament, in the Cities and in the rural areas. Are we up to this challenge?
Bulawayo 28th September 2013