President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa has rescinded the illegal statutory instrument which was meant to hide from the public the spending of public funds in health and construction sectors.
Chief Secretary to Cabinet and President, Misheck Sibanda said the statutory instrument was issued without his knowledge.
The short-lived gazette ignited public outrage and condemnation when it came into life this week to announce the government’s intention to conceal public expenditure. ED clipped off the wings of the opaque gazette which left him and his spin-doctors licking deep wounds.
- General notice 635 of 2023 was gazetted by the Government of Zimbabwe on 5 May 2023. It announced that President Emmerson Mnangagwa had invoked section 3 (6) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Chapter 22:23) to authorise special procurements in the public interest for the health sector.
- The gazette stated that the President had approved the direct procurement of medical equipment and supplies from various companies without going through the normal tender process. The gazette also listed the names and amounts of the companies involved in the procurements, which totalled over US$ 200 million12
- The gazette was defended by George Charamba, the Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet for Presidential Communications, and Nick Mangwana, the Permanent Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services. They claimed that the gazette was necessary and legal to address the urgent and critical needs of the health sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They also claimed that the gazette was in line with international best practices and standards for emergency procurement.
- However, on 9 May 2023, the Government of Zimbabwe issued a statement that claimed that the gazette was fake and withdrawn. The statement said that the gazette did not have the signatures of the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, or the President himself. The statement also said that on the instruction of His Excellency the President, the document in question had been rescinded as it had no standing at law. The statement also apologised for any inconvenience caused by the fake gazette and warned that those behind it would face legal action. ”
The possible reasons why Mnangagwa climbed down on the gazette are:
- Public outcry and backlash: The gazette sparked public outrage and criticism from various stakeholders, such as civil society groups, opposition parties, media outlets, health professionals, and ordinary citizens. They accused the Government of corruption, mismanagement, lack of transparency, and abuse of power. They also questioned the legitimacy and validity of the gazette and demanded its revocation or explanation. They also called for an independent audit and investigation into the procurements and their beneficiaries3
- Legal challenges and pressure: The gazette faced legal challenges and pressure from various sources, such as lawyers, activists, watchdogs, and courts. They argued that the gazette violated various laws and regulations, such as the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (Chapter 22:23), the Public Finance Management Act (Chapter 22:19), and the Audit Office Act (Chapter 22:18). They also argued that the gazette undermined the principles and values of public procurement, such as accountability, fairness, competitiveness, efficiency, and value for money. They also filed lawsuits or petitions to challenge or nullify