MPs are demanding for July Moyo’s availability to explain questionable tenders
HARARE: In a rare show of consensus Thursday, opposition and ruling party legislators roundly condemned the government’s deal to procure fire tenders from Belarus with most telling deputy local government minister Mariam Chombo that her boss must present himself before the House.
Chombo presented the long-awaited statement on her ministry’s deal to acquire fire tenders from the east European country run by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s autocratic ally Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko.
The junior minister’s statement failed to impress legislators who were concerned about the cost of the fire tenders and government’s imposition of the vehicles on councils without evidence the local authorities ever asked for them.
Government has since drawn outage from the opposition and civil society after demanding that councils pay for fire tenders in a deal seen as another of local government minister July Moyo’s allegedly corrupt schemes.
On charges that councils were never consulted about the procurement, Chombo said government engaged Chief Fire Officers, while on charges the deal was not put through normal tender processes, she said this was not necessary since it was done through a bilateral agreement between the two countries.
Opposition Citizens Coalition for Change MP and top lawyer Tendai Biti exposed what he described as the legal nullity of the arrangement.
“Madam Speaker, I am concerned with the law. The law must be followed,” said Biti.
“The minister says the contract came about through a bilateral agreement between Zimbabwe and Belarus which imposes financial obligations to the country,” he said.
“Such an agreement must be approved by this Parliament according to the Constitution before the agreement is signed.
“The approval Hon. Speaker Sir, if you read Section 327 (3) is prior approval. So, before you sign, you actually need the prior approval of Parliament for any agreement that imposes financial obligations on Zimbabwe.
“Certainly Hon. Speaker Sir, this Parliament did not approve this particular agreement. Therefore, it is completely null and void.”
He added; “Mr. Speaker Sir, I now come to the procurement. Section 274 of the Constitution says local authorities are run by those that are elected in council.
“That means the Minister of Local Government, Hon. July Moyo and his Deputy, Hon. Marian Chombo cannot run local authorities. That means that the decisions on procurement and policy on whether to build clinics, hospitals, to buy fire tenders or build schools lie essentially with local authorities.
“In this case, there is not a single local authority in Zimbabwe that said as a priority there is a desire for fire tankers. So the Ministry with its own ambitions, shall I say corrupt ambitions, has created demand and went and bought things that the local authorities then considered as a priority.”
Zanu PF MP Rushinga Tendai Nyabani weighed-in asking, “I would like to know from the Minister, does it mean that all local authorities requested that there be fire extinguisher tenders?
“If you look at other local authorities especially in rural areas, what is important for them are riggers. In rural areas, for example in Rushinga, fire outbreak can happen after a long time, like two years.
“What is important is water. So does it mean that all our local authorities really want fire tenders? If possible we can ask them as to how important these are to them?”
Nyabani’s question was accompanied by applause from the opposition bench. Biti followed him and tried to have a congratulatory handshake Nyabani but he refused.
Zanu PF’s Chipinge South MP Enock Porusingazi had this to say, “My question to the Hon Minister is that the fire tenders she is talking about – are they all the same like a one-size-fits-all approach or you have considered the different needs of the councils?
“For example Chipinge Rural District Council, can it take a fire tender which is similar to Harare and Bulawayo? Did you also look at the capacity for making the repayments? From the resources that they have in Chipinge, can they match the capacity to pay back compared to Harare?
“Why did you not consider the different sizes of the towns, a small town getting a smaller vehicle? There is no need to have a fire tender with an 80- metre boom in some of these small towns which have no high rise buildings.”
CCC’s Harare North MP Rusty Markham demanded evidence that councils asked for the fire tenders.
“We want to see letters from the councils requesting for fire-tenders and to what extent was Procurement Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) involved? The statement is devoid of stakeholders detail as only fire-tenders were mentioned,” he said.
“What about the rest of us? The amount of the loan is unknown to us other than what we have seen on social media. Payment of US$5.3 million a month of devolution funds is going to pay back these fire-tenders. Nearly US$16 million was paid by end of June, 2022. Who is running the devolution funds?”
The beleaguered Chombo’s responses failed to impress the parliamentarians who demanded that her boss July Moyo, a rare visitor to the House, should instead come and defend the deal
The junior minister’s woe was noticed by opposition legislator Sichelesile Mahlangu who said; “It may sound as if we are attacking the Hon. Deputy Minister.
“I think it is high time Hon. Minister July Moyo should come and answer. I am a woman, it is unfair for me to attack another woman but I have no choice because July Moyo is always away.
“Hon. Deputy Minister, may you kindly unveil to the House all the stakeholders that were present during the consultation. If you consulted communities, let us as Hon. Members know those communities that you consulted because I understand in each and everything that you are doing, especially in communities there are priorities.
“If there are communities who prioritised fire tenders, let it be known so that this House ihlaliseke because we are not happy about the way your Ministry is doing, no wonder why we end up saying it is more corrupt than any other Ministry.”
The debate is expected to continue next week.