Zimbabwe is definitely open for looting!

Tendai Ruben Mbofana


BY Tendai Ruben Mbofana

For someone who has been around for close to half a century, and four decades of these under the governance (or rather, misgovernace) of the ZANU PF regime, I never for once believed the yarn of “removing criminals around Mugabe” used as the pretext in staging a military coup d’état to topple the long-term ruthless tyrant.

Why would I have fallen for that pathetic lie, when I had lived through an entire 37 years (at the time), of horrendous despicable grand looting of our national resources, at the hands of nearly the whole caboodle at the helm of Zimbabwe’s political elite – some of whom, were now portraying themselves as reformed characters, in their deceptive bid to garner both local and international acceptance during and after the military operation in November 2017.

And, I was vindicated in my skepticism – since the so-called ‘new dispensation’ has, within a record short space of time, far overshadowed and surpassed the plunder of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe era – under which, corruption was prevalent, but at least, attempts being made to conceal it from the public eye.

In fact, during the Mugabe ruinous misrule, it was most difficult to pointedly identify where the rot was being committed exactly – leaving the citizenry at pains in proving that these nefarious activities were actually taking place.

We had to rely on such investigations as those by the 2006 Commission of Inquiry – which, exposed and recorded unprecedented shocking corruption at the state-owned iron and steel fallen giant ZISCOSTEEL, in which assets were disposed off scandalously, millions of dollars misappropriated through shady dealings, and rampant nepotism in senior appointments, all with the participation of powerful high-ranking government officials.

Not surprisingly, the company collapsed a few years later – leaving thousands of former employees without receiving their pensions and other terminal benefits.

Of course, absolutely ZERO action was taken against these disgraceful crooks, as it would have been overly ambitious expecting criminals to prosecute themselves.

In most instances, we knew corruption was happening in Zimbabwe – but without knowing where, in what fashion, and by whom?

Along came the “Second Republic” – which grabbed power on the back of “removing criminals around Mugabe” – and, the pillaging of our national treasures took on an entirely new menacing face, with scandals now conducted in full glare of the public, involving the highest ranking officials in the country looting billions of dollars, without the slightest shame or consequences.

When I was contemplating writing this article, it took me all of two days till today, to finally put pen to paper – as I did not know where to start, and what to include, due to the sheer magnitude and high volumes of incidents of high-levels of corruption in this country, which I found overwhelming – most of which, occurred over only the past two or three years.

Recording them all – those so far known to the public – would require pages upon pages.

Surely, where does one start when reports of the grand theft of our national resources appear to be coming in on a weekly basis?

We can mention the US$60 million COVID-19 PPE (personal protective equipment) scandal, whereby the government paid a shady middleman (closely linked to power), for overpriced material in 2020 – yet, even today, not a single person has been convicted.

I could bring up the billions poured down the drain in the so-called ERRP2 (Emergency Road Rehabilitation Program) since 2021 – which was characterized by favoritism in the awarding of tenders to unproven and politically-compromised entities, that did a shoddy job, resulting in most of these “rehabilitated roads” already potholed and unnavigable.

Or, the selling off of state assets to one single individual, in nearly every lucrative sector of the country’s economy, usually without so much as going to tender, as prescribed by the law – such as banking, mining, fuel, agriculture, bus procurement, and even dam construction – making him billions of dollars in the process, whose sordid dealings are well investigated and documented, with the loot being stashed away in offshore accounts.

Needless to say, he was placed on the sanctions list by the US and UK administrations.

Recently, though, Zimbabwe has been abuzz with the Pomona Waste Management scandal – whose agreement with a shadowy Netherlands registered company (fronted by the same individual fingered in the COVID-19 deal) was forced down the throat of Harare City Council by the central government, again without going to tender – costing the cash-strapped local authority about US$22,000 a day.

Then the big one – the shock government directive to all local authorities in the country to procure at least one fire tender each (with metropolitan councils forced to buy three, urban councils to get two, and rural councils one) from a shady Belarusian middleman – each vehicle costing a staggering US$464,292, (overpriced by an unbelievable US$270,000, as these are going for US$194,000 from the LLC Pozhsnab, which is actually the company which sells these fire engines).

What can be more corrupt that this?

If possessing fire tenders is such a high priority than the provision of safe clean decent drinking water, then why not simply purchase straight from LLC Pozhsnab – or better still, off eBay, where a good pre-owned vehicle goes for US$20,000.

Let it be clear that these examples as a mere tip of the iceberg – since another close ally of the powers-that-be is implicated in a US$9.3 million dirty deal involving the rehabilitation of pumps at Harare’s Morton Jeffray Water Works in 2019, and reportedly extended to several other local authorities around the country – in contracts worth US$20 million, yet without following proper procurement procedures.

These are the same local authorities that are struggling to provide safe potable drinking water to their residents, regularly collect refuse, and maintain or even construct roads.

Other Belarusian characters have been in the thick of things in several other profligate undertakings in the gold mining sector – in which, a son of that country’s leader is reportedly involved – amongst a whole host of others in solar energy, and equipment, all disguised as government-to-government agreements.

This proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that our ruling elite have become unhinged and crazed in their looting spree – dispensing of all decency and even respect for the people they are supposed to lead.

When they grabbed power from Mugabe in 2017, singing a new mantra of “Zimbabwe is open for business”, who could have imagined that was a mere codeword for “Zimbabwe is open for looting” – but as with all other cases of corruption, the ordinary citizens are the ones who suffer the most.

We are the ones who have to go without water in our homes (and, forced to queue at boreholes miles away, for hours), roads unmaintained, refuse uncollected, civil servants without dignified salaries, hospitals without medication, or working cancer radiotherapy machines, or decent operating theaters, whilst schools have no books for our children.

The question now is – what are we going to do about this unashamed and repugnant rot, or are we to continue lying down, with tails between our legs, as our livelihoods are turned upside down by those supposed to lead our nation?

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com

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