The proposed parastatal reforms unveiled by the government on Friday were yet another bold step by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration in cleaning up the economic mess created by Zanu PF over the years, but their success hinges on the elimination of corruption.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa announced that Zesa Holdings was being reformed with boards of its three subsidiaries set to be reduced to one and that the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe boards will be merged.
The government is also consolidating its telecommunications entities — Zanet and Africom — into one operation.
Other loss-making institutions such as New Ziana, will be reduced into mere departments under relevant line ministries.
The government is also reforming the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration, which will now focus on revenue collection and leave road construction activities to other departments.
Chinamasa revealed that other entities had been ordered to find strategic partners while others will be liquidated because they are not considered viable.
The minister’s announcement came a few days after a scandal involving the acquisition of planes from Malaysia by Air Zimbabwe was laid bare, leaving the government badly exposed.
According to Chinamasa, the four Boeing 777-200 planes bought from Air Malaysia were immediately leased to a new airline, Zimbabwe Airways, through the Zimbabwe Leasing Company.
The explanation by the Treasury boss and his Transport counterpart Joram Gumbo on the structure of the deal was not convincing and the public relations disaster left Zimbabweans fearing another looting avenue had been created by the elites to empty government coffers.
Zimbabweans had reasons to fear for the worst because under former president Robert Mugabe’s rule, parastatals had become a feeding trough for government officials and their cronies.
Air Zimbabwe has been a victim of such brazen theft so many times and the national carrier has been brought down to its knees.
The unfolding scandal surrounding the purchase of the Malaysian planes is a reminder of the endemic corruption that has rendered State-run businesses an albatross on the economy.
Therefore, for the reforms to succeed, the government has to stamp out corruption and ensure that the entities that are being consolidated start on a clean slate.
Forensic audits must be carried out on all those parastatals targeted for privatisation and where funds were looted, the culprits must be brought to book.
Mnangagwa promised to deal ruthlessly with the corrupt when he took over from Mugabe in November last year, but four months on we are yet to see a single case of corruption being successfully prosecuted by the courts.
The government’s commitment to fighting corruption remains just talk. Graft is still the biggest threat to the reforms Chinamasa laid out and it is high time Mnangagwa began walking the talk.
For example, Air Zimbabwe cannot be turned around without a proper investigation into a lot of dodgy deals done in the name of the airline, including the Zimbabwe Airways fiasco.