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Govt secrets and the public interest in conflict

By Jonathan Maphenduka

WHEN the 2020/2021 budget was unveiled, it was revealed that funds had been set aside to compensate white former farmers for their alleged loss through building infrastructure, which was left behind with the land when the land was returned to its rightful owners. Government has never publicly justified why those who lost their land through the land reform programme (an exercise which was backed by the 1979 constitution) should be compensated.

Government by its action does not accept that land reform is a legacy of colonial injustice and is using its under-utilisation by African beneficiaries to withdraw the land for the benefit of those who usurped it in the first place.

Since the announcement to compensate, government has come up with a new policy on land and farmers. This colour-blind policy is designed to justify the new philosophy that white farmers and black farmers are the same, and (supposedly) should be treated alike, although they are not being treated alike. Can the public expect that there will in future be a provision in the budget to compensate black farmers, who have in terms of the new policy been painted white, but are clearly outside the same bracket when it comes to compensation?

If this new policy was not being used to take land away from the African people, government would be left alone to entrench it because it believes its policy will result in the removal of economic sanctions, which are the reasons why government is betraying its own people. Government is alone in this belief.

Government is playing hide-and-seek in its administration of public assets like land and public enterprises because it fears that any public scrutiny will expose malpractices. It has taken to calling compromised figures in the public media to programme questions and answers for public misinformation. This is being done to persuade the public that government has nothing to hide.

There is a lot that government will not make a subject of public debate because it must maintain its shroud on information of public interest because its system lacks transparency.

Nearly two years ago government announced that a consortium of British investors had taken a block of shares in the ailing Cold Storage Company (CSC). This announcement (apparently) was intended to show the United Kingdom that there were those of its citizens who were prepared to defy the sanctions lobby to pull Zimbabwe out of the deep economic mud in which it is wallowing with little chance of pulling itself out.

Leading to independence there was massive disinvestment by groups of British companies in this country. What is it that would make them defy their government’s unyielding anti-Zimbabwe policy to bail the country out of its corruption-bound economic situation? Is it the new dispensation’s policy, which has failed because government is unwilling to comprehensively institute reforms across board? Who wants to believe that those hard-nosed Britons now want to return to this country on this government’s terms?

When is government going to pluck up courage to tell the country what is happening at the CSC because there is nothing to show that investors intend to do anything at the CSC? Last December the remnants of the parastatal’s workers were sent away on a prolonged leave of absence with a promise that they would be called back to work in due course. They are still waiting.

I have this nagging feeling that there was never any British investors to revive the CSC. I have a feeling that a group of local interests were behind the announcement because white farmers have been calling for privatisation of the parastatal. Government owes it to the people of this country to explain what is happening. The same would be said about the revival of the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company. Talk about injustice at the expense of the African people and their deliberate betrayal by government.

Minister of Information Monica Mutsvangwa was seen recently talking about Press freedom in Zimbabwe and the media was urged to approach relevant ministries for information of public interest. Mutsvangwa, apart from being (like her husband Christopher) a talented person with excellent command of the English language, also exudes honesty of purpose, a rare attribute among her colleagues in cabinet. Zimbabwe, however, is still suffering from the hangover from the Aippa days when the public was more often than not, fobbed off misinformation.

But can she tell those in the media when her ministry will undergo devolution so that questions on matters of public interest can be filed with regional offices for onward transmission to Bambazonke, where answers can be provided?

Each time one thinks of raising questions on water development, land and resettlement, one remembers that these elements of public administration are the responsibility of one powerful man who was pulled from the military to head these sensitive portfolios in public administration.

Can anyone bark up minister Perrance Shiri without skipping a heartbeat because he carries his military authority with him in public life? Recently he was seen in Mashonaland Central where he was laying down the law of “what we do in Mashonaland Central” or words to that effect. For that moment he was not minister of state representing government, but a political activist addressing his supporters. Then I remembered how a long time ago that Masvingo was a “one-party state” where the slogan was “Zanu ngeye ropa” (party of blood) and whose blood in peacetime Zimbabwe?

One can’t help recalling the reason or purpose for the Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry to whitewash wrongdoing.

In the region of Matabeleland water has been a talking point lately, with the City of Bulawayo moving to alleviate the situation by re-commissioning a sewer dam as a source of potable water for the city, the first such move in the history of the city. Then followed a dismaying show of unbridled power by ministers responsible for water Shiri and his Local Government counterpart July Moyo.

During the discussions the Bulawayo City Council (in its absence) was shown to be confused and unable to tell what it wanted. “What does the council want, water or pumping equipment? There is 14 months’ supply of water available for Bulawayo,” said one of the two ministers. The council was not represented to explain its problems.

Then a great deal was made of Msthabezi Dam, which was built for Bulawayo, but is claimed by Gwanda. Two cub reporters from the print and television media sat there out of their depth and whispering their questions to the two ministers but petrified with fear. In Matabeleland the talking point is the government project of Gwayi-Shangani Dam.

This was an opportunity to ask the two ministers about government’s position on the dam project because it is a national rather than a project for the region.
l Jonathan Maphenduka contact 263 772 332 404 the impression

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