So the ZANU PF regime is exceedingly delighted over the US$1.5 billion Manhize steel project in Mvuma!
Tendai Ruben Mbofana
The Zimbabwe government can not tell us enough about the road rehabilitation program taking place in selected parts of the country.
The US$300 million Beitbridge Border Post expansion has been reported in state media over and over again.
In fact, these supposed ‘development projects’ have been touted as President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa’s ‘flagships’.
It would actually appear as if state media journalists are now compelled to report on these programs on a nearly daily basis.
Quite honestly, I now believe there are journalists who have actually been assigned beats to specifically cover Manhize, road rehabilitation, and Beitbridge.
Not too long ago, the USS$88 million Mbudzi interchange and US$121.7 million Gwayi-Shangani Dam – which are currently under construction – had pride of place in state media, but that excitement has somehow waned.
Maybe this is on account of the slow pace of construction and repeatedly missed deadlines – on top of various scandals associated with contracts and compensation payments.
However, Manhize – portrayed as a ‘game-changer’ with the potential of becoming Africa’s largest integrated steel works (producing 1.2 tones of steel annually) – is now the darling of Mnangagwa’s administration.
This, together with newly refurbished roads and the Beitbridge Border Post.
Hardly a day goes by without news reports on these projects.
We also have the recently commissioned 600 MW (megawatt) Hwange Thermal Power Station Units 7 and 8 – which was built at a cost of US$1.5 billion.
However, this begs a most critical question.
Is there really anything to celebrate here?
Should Mnangagwa be proud of these supposed achievements – to be regarded as some feather in his cap?
Above all this, why are some sections of ordinary Zimbabweans apparently praising the regime for seemingly ‘growing the economy’?
I am tempted to believe that Zimbabweans are probably the easiest people to deceive on this plant.
Why do I make such a bold declaration?
Well, it’s simple, really.
Before we jump and ululate in a joyous celebration, we need to take a deep breath and ask some pointed questions.
For starters, why is Zimbabwe so jubilant over a new iron and steel plant from China when we had our very own in Redcliff?
Did we already not possess our homegrown ZiscoSteel, which at its peak also produced 1.2 tones of steel each year, employing over 5,000 people (plus 50,000 downstream), and the country’s largest foreign currency earner?
What led to its demise?
The problems began to show in 1986, after an official inquiry into the state-owned enterprise’s operations discovered “mismanagement, poor planning and nepotism” at the company.
The report also found that, due to antiquated equipment that had not been refurbished in years, the plant had become very expensive to run.
By 1993, the company was now operating at 30 percent capacity – with the Number 4 blast furnace frequently breaking down.
In 1996, a Chinese firm was awarded a tender worth $500 million to resuscitate the blast furnace, but the work was never done – such that by 2000, this were no longer functional while ZiscoSteel’s plants and equipment were now obsolete.
In 2005, auditors discovered that money (possibly in the millions of US dollars) from the sell-off of the company’s foreign subsidiaries was missing.
The National Economic Conduct Inspectorate handed Obert Mpofu, then industry minister, a dossier on corruption – whereby he told a Parliamentary committee that it ‘contains names of my colleagues in the ministry, MPs and employees at Zisco’.
However, then security minister Didymus Mutasa later said the report ‘does not exist’, leading to Mpofu himself backtracking on his own words.
The report implicated then vice president Joice Mujuru, who is said to have received 30 000 liters of fuel from ZiscoSteel for her celebrations after she was elected vice-president a year earlier.
The ruling ZANU PF party got 30,000 liters of diesel and 30,000 liters of petrol for its 2003 conference.
On top of this, company assets vanished into thin air, with some disposed (mostly to those aligned to power) at ridiculously low costs.
So, who is to blame for Zimbabwe losing its own mega iron and steel company?
Was it not the same ZANU PF we are celebrating today for bringing on board a foreign firm (Dinson Iron and Steel Company) to make billions of dollars from our resources in Manhize?
We can say the same about all the other so-called ‘Mnangagwa flagship programs’.
Why is Hwange now being expanded for US$1.5 billion – with a staggering US$1.2 being a loan from China (which obviously needs to be paid back)?
Were we not supposed to have been regularly refurbishing and modernizing the country’s power generation units ever since we gained independence in 1980?
Yet, here we are – saddled with ancient equipment that is near obsolete – resulting in perennial power crises, whereby we have no electricity for up to 12 or more hours a day.
It is reported that the economy is losing US$80 million each month to these electricity outages, which are adversely hampering our industrial, agricultural, and mining sectors.
In all this, a 2019 forensic report by the Auditor General – conducted by Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) – cast a very dark shadow on the state-owned power utility ZESA and its shady operations.
It was exposed that millions of US dollars were siphoned through elaborate schemes of over-payments on transformers and other equipment, purchase of obsolete equipment, luxury vehicles, and other extravagant accessories for executives.
Shockingly, this all pails into insignificance when compared to the graft at the highest echelons of the company, which I chronicled in an article entailed, ‘How high-level corruption at ZESA plunged Zimbabwe into darkness’.
These are too many for me to reproduce in this article, which is already too long as it is.
What are we then to celebrate as Zimbabwe when Mnangagwa commissions a mere two units at Hwange, yet the country remaining in darkness?
I will not waste any more time on the ongoing road rehabilitation, except to say, where was the government all this time while our roads reached such a deplorable state?
Here, we have a country with the largest reserves of lithium in Africa, the second platinum deposits in the world, the seventh largest producer of diamonds, and the second largest gold reserves per square kilometer.
This is not to mention black granite, chrome, nickel, copper, asbestos, silver, and any others
So, how did our road network even meet such a sorry predicament?
Let us remember that already during the colonial era, so-called ‘spaghetti roads’ were taking shape as witnessed with the sophisticated flyover along Cripps Road (near Mbare, Harare).
Can anyone imagine the phenomenal state of our road network by this time had the ZANU PF government been faithful with our national resources?
Nevertheless, did we not watch as former ZINARA boss Frank Chitikutuku loose two upmarket houses, a fleet of vehicles, and shares in two businesses believed to have been bought from proceeds of corruption?
This was after the High Court granted State application for civil forfeiture last year in a case where he was accused of corruptly awarding a tender to a local company for the rehabilitation of roads.
It is also reported that ZINARA paid US$70 million to a non-existing company for consultancy to help find a suitable road contractor.
Please note that I am deliberately selecting only a few cases since there are far too many to place in one article.
I can not sign off without mentioning one other ‘Mnangagwa flagship’ – the drilling of boreholes in urban areas!
Just as with our roads, why has the Zimbabwe regime not invested heavily in the construction of sufficient water sources across the country, with modern distribution infrastructure, in the past 43 years?
In as much as the Gwayi-Shangani Dam may appear commendable, nonetheless most towns and cities have no potable water in their homes.
Surely, are Mnangagwa and his administration not ashamed of drilling communal boreholes in this day and age – more so in areas that used to boast of water coming out in residents’ homes?
I could go on and one, but I believe the point has been made.
There is absolutely nothing to celebrate in Mnangagwa’s ‘flagship programs’.
They are definitely not ‘game-changers’ by any stretch of the imagination!
If anything, had our government been proficient in its work, Zimbabwe today would be competing with the best in the world.
However, what we witness, in utter embarrassment, is a regime trying to revive what they destroyed over the decades of corruption and mismanagement.
In other words, Mnangagwa is like a school child doing ‘corrections’ on the work he got wrong.
This is not progress but a feeble attempt at returning Zimbabwe to where it was 40 years ago.
Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: email@example.com, or visit website: https://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/