THE recent injection of US$961 million into the country’s coffers by the International Monetary Fund in special drawing rights is a development that we welcome with trepidation given our government’s propensity to loot public resources.
The allocation has, unsurprisingly, stirred a lot of excitement especially in the corridors of power with Finance minister Mthuli Ncube saying the money would be used to acquire COVID-19 vaccines as well as spruce up schools, hospitals and roads among other priorities.
The cash injection could be a major game-changer and help breathe a new lease of life into the country’s fragile economy buffeted by a debilitating liquidity crunch, currency volatility, low capacity utilisation, massive job losses and the crippling impact of the COVID-19 scourge.
However, there are widespread fears that this money could be embezzled to fatten the pockets of the political elite at the expense of the country’s development and impoverished citizens.
The IMF boost came at a time when the nation is grappling with revelations by Auditor-General Mildred Chiri of gross irregularities and deliberate manipulation of figures to facilitate theft of donations meant for COVID-19 relief and projects that saw undeserving government officials and individuals benefiting.
Chiri revealed shocking details on how fake names, identity documents and mobile phone numbers were used as part of a broader scheme to siphon part of the over $890 million COVID-19 relief from government.
The funding from the Bretton Woods Institution also came in the wake of revelations that about 350 000 diamond carats worth US$140 million vanished last year from the vaults of the country’s minerals marketing body, Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe as well as State-controlled gem-mining company, Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company.
According to Chiri’s report, the diamonds remain unaccounted for.
The discovery of diamonds in the Marange area in 2008 elicited the same excitement as that of the IMF allocation with the hope that it would help improve the lives of the country’s citizens. However, the diamonds were looted with then finance ministers Tendai Biti and Patrick Chinamasa revealing that the revenue from the diamonds was not being remitted to the fiscus.
That Western countries have in the past by-passed government and channelled resources through their development partners for fear that they would be abused by State apparatchiks is testament to its shameful record of abuse and outright theft.
It is our fervent hope that the IMF allocation will not meet the same fate as that of diamonds and COVID-19 funds and for once be used to benefit the country.