Preparations for holding this week’s national census have been marred by chaos, with the training of enumerators suspended after soldiers disrupted the process.
The Standard Political Editor, Patrice Makova (PM) spoke to acting Finance Minister and Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals, Gorden Moyo (GM) about the problems dogging the census process and other issues.
PM: Why has the census programme been suspended?
GM: The suspension was caused by some disruptions to the training of enumerators as a number of people came to our centres yet they were not registered there and again they did not meet the criteria of enumerators. It then became a problem to proceed so we decided to suspend the programme.
PM: Have these problems been addressed?
GM: We have met as various ministers who are stakeholders in the 2012 population census. We discussed the matter and looked at the challenges and resolved the problems. We expect that all our enumerators will be back for training and those that are not enumerators must retreat.
PM: Why is there so much political interest in the census programme?
GM: A national census is not supposed to be a political project. In reality and essence it is a technical programme. It is about planning. When we carry out censuses the results that come out are used by the government for planning purposes, for prioritisation of plans and for budgetary processes. So there is really no reason for party and power politics to be staged in this programme. We just need a professional programme which adheres to the principles of running a national census as stipulated in Sadc and United Nations statistical department guidelines. These are the guidelines we have been using since 1982.
PM: Given all these disturbances and the politicisation of the process, are you confident we are going to have a census this year?
GM: I have no reason not to be. I believe in the capacity and skills of our enumerators and our team from ZimStats and the Ministry of Finance. I have no reason to doubt that we are going to complete this programme and the results will be credible. We have since dealt with the challenges that plagued the programme.
PM: Has adequate funding been secured? How much is needed and is it only the government which is providing funding?
GM: Funding has never been adequate in any situation. We do not have adequate funding, but we have made great strides in getting relative funding that will make sure the results we get are credible. Even if government is constrained, it has an obligation of ensuring that a census is done. So government is funding, but we have also appealed to development partners who I must say have done their best. They have made their pledges and we hope that they will honour these.
In terms of figures required, this is an administrative issue and the best person to talk to is the ZimStats Director-General.
PM: Turning to you own ministry of state enterprises, how far have you gone in reforming parastatals?
GM: I must admit I am not happy with the speed. We could have done better as a government, but as you would know my ministry is not a doing ministry, but only design policies and sets standards and norms. It is then up to line ministries to implement the policies. We have gone a long way to draft policies for example we have designed a manual meant to speed up the restructuring exercise. The restructuring manual is the best ever to be produced this side of the equator and other countries in the region are already asking for it and using it. My cabinet colleagues have the manual, but it is incumbent upon them to use it.
PM: Parastatals continue to perform poorly, wasting taxpayers’ money. Are we likely to see the privatisation and commercialisation of any of these loss-making entities?
GM: We have only managed to successfully restructure Noczim. People will appreciate that our national oil company was in problems before, but it has now been restructured. There are no more shortages of fuel in the country. We have also restructured Zisco, but we are not happy with the finalisation of this exercise which could have been done differently. The implementation and other operational issues are being attended to by the various Zisco stakeholders such as the ministries of industry, mines, water and energy. We are now finalising the restructuring of Agribank, Zesa and Olivine industries. Air Zimbabwe has been the biggest headache. It’s a big entity with a lot of problems such as a huge debt overhang. An inter-ministerial taskforce was set up composed of myself and the ministers of finance, tourism, environment, and transports. We have gone a long way and there is now a consultant who is going to advise us on the best way to proceed. NRZ needs to be innovative so that it meets the standards of a modern economy and developmental state. That is why we are discussing with a number of other railways agencies such as South Africa’s Transet. We are in consultation to see how best we can work together in reviving and rehabilitating NRZ.
PM: How about issues to do with corporate governance?
GM: The ministry drafted a policy in corporate governance and this is now being implemented. We are enforcing the norms and values of good corporate governance to all our state entities. They are now producing audited financial statements. Their salaries are now under check and most boards are now in place and they are now holding AGMs.
PM: But we continue to hear of cases of corruption involving parastatals?
GM: Corruption had become a culture during the crisis period. Zimbabwe is trying to emerge from a full blown economic recession and over the past decade various cultures developed, including corruption and looting. People were just looting because these are government properties and assets. There is this culture of kleptocracy where people just steal even a razor blade or pin which they may not use. This kleptomania did not spare our public entities as there was a lot of corruption. But through this corporate governance framework we are trying to deal with these issues of corruption.
We are encouraging the establishment of joint ventures to make sure that we have new people and managers coming in with new ideas and new technology. Because they are bringing all these, they have to be very alive to the issues of corruption, efficiency and effectiveness. I cannot vouch that we have succeeded, no corruption is still continuing as diehards have been created. But once you are caught, we now act accordingly as there is no more pampering. If we suspect that there is corruption in any our parastatals I will not hesitate to appeal to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to visit that entity so that these activities are exposed.
Minister responds to allegations of nepotism
PM: Your colleagues in Cabinet are also accused of nepotism and cronyism as they are appointing relatives and village boys and girls as parastatals board members and CEOs. What is your comment?
GM: It has been a case in the past because there was no policy which prescribed the qualities of board members. These problems are still there, but we are in the process where ministers are guided by corporate governance and issues of gender balance, skills mixture and so on when it comes to selections of board members.
My ministry is keeping a data bank of board members and qualified people. Ministers are now coming to us before making appointments.
Squabbles, defections a creation of the media: Minister
PM: You are also the MDC-T chairman for Bulawayo. There have been reports of squabbles within your party. Can you explain what is really happening?
GM: The squabbles are phantoms of journalists and enemies of progress. As far as I am concerned, the province of Bulawayo is stable and growing. It is going to be one of the shining examples particularly when devolution comes in. As a party in power there we will make sure that the province is strong and contribute to the development and well-being of residents.
PM: But we have heard of reports of defections from your party to the Welshman Ncube-led MDC formation?
GM: I am not aware of any defections. Between January and June this years, as a province we sold 52 000 cards to new recruits. I don’t know where these new recruits were coming from, whether from Zanu PF or elsewhere we don’t ask. Can you compare these 52 000 new members to the 84 which you are talking about. In fact I am more worried about strengthening the party and preparing for elections. It is child’s play to talk about defections.
PM: Are you aiming to contest in any particular constituency in the forthcoming elections?
GM: My focus is to build the party in order to defeat Zanu PF in local government and Parliamentary elections. I think more nationally so that we win state power so the issue of constituencies is tributary.
PM: Lastly, are you missing your days as a civil society leader?
GM: I miss those days, not that I am regretting what I am doing now. If you are a human being and you do not reminiscence then you have a problem. In one way or another you remember your past. My days at civic society level were glorious, but now I have a new task which is to ensure we build a new Zimbabwe with new values and fresh ideas. We want Zimbabwe to join the BRICS. We need to finalise the constitution-making process and create a new Zimbabwe where people are going to have jobs and investment.