OPINIONBy Farirai Machivenyika
Portfolio committees proceedings hogged the limelight in the past few weeks, with heads of various parastatals being grilled over goings on at their various institutions. Mr Speaker Sir, gone are the days of taking parliamentary business casually or as a formality given the seriousness that the President has adopted in carrying out Government business from the day he assumed office.
It was therefore shocking that we had officials from the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) openly admitting before the portfolio committee on Public Accounts that they abused public funds nearly five years ago.
That the two officials, former acting chief executive officer Mr Moses Juma and administration and human resources director Mr Precious Murove, are still in the employ of the organisation and nothing is being done to them raises serious concerns in the way affairs are run at that institution.
It further boggles the mind that attempts to take disciplinary measures against the two were reversed by the organisation’s board. This further raises questions of corporate governance at the parastatal.
Mr Speaker Sir, Zinara is an important institution in the maintenance and construction of roads in the country and it is unacceptable that management and use of public funds can be taken for granted like that.
The public has complained on several occasions about the poor state of roads countrywide and it does not inspire confidence that people mandated with management of funds for that purpose can abuse them without any action being taken against them.
Government has embarked on a drive to attract investment into the country, but this cannot happen as envisaged if there is no proper infrastructure and if corrupt people are left to get away with it.
Given that the two executives admitted to awarding themselves unsanctioned allowances, it is only natural that at the least they resign and pay back whatever amounts they took without following procedure.
Mr Speaker Sir, the message that should be sent out to the public and even to those beyond our borders is that Zimbabwe will not tolerate corruption and that anyone found wanting will pay for their excesses.
The President said that it is no longer business as usual in this new dispensation. The action being taken against such culprits should show that it is not business as usual.
Another issue that also took centre stage was the haggling between Arda board chairman Mr Basil Nyabadza and chairperson of the Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Committee Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena over contracts the parastatal entered into with private players.
It is commendable that the committee stood its ground that the contracts be submitted despite objections from Mr Nyabadza.
Mr Speaker Sir, Arda is a public entity and whatever contracts and partnerships it enters into are subject to public scrutiny. It is important that all public officials know that they are dealing with public funds and assets and will always be under the spotlight.
Parastatals have been blamed for the downward turn the economy took because of their poor performance and it should therefore be expected that people would want to know how they are performing.
At one stage, parastatals and State enterprises contributed 40 percent towards the country’s Gross Domestic Product and it is our wish that they return to that position and even surpass it.
We, therefore, urge Parliament to intensify its oversight role as it also ensures that people stick to the mandates they are given when they receive public funds and assets to preside over instead of seeing them as cash cows to enrich themselves.
Mr Speaker Sir, Parliament should also expedite the passing of the Corporate Governance Bill to improve management of public funds and hence sound management of such enterprises.
Finally Mr Speaker Sir, we should all condemn the intra-party violence by the MDC-T as they fight to succeed former party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who died two weeks ago.
While violence in all forms should be condemned, the violence within the MDC-T has another dimension with harmonised elections around the corner.
Threats to burn to death elected party vice president Dr Thokozani Khupe, secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora and organising secretary Abednico Bhebhe by party thugs that support Mr Nelson Chamisa at the burial of Mr Tsvangirai were repugnant to say the least.
Then this last week, at least 15 other people were injured while property was damaged in other skirmishes in Bulawayo as the internal fights pitting primarily Dr Khupe and Mr Chamisa’s supporters erupted into open warfare.
While it is not our business who leads the MDC-T, Mr Speaker, it is deplorable that violence is being used to settle succession disputes.
With the harmonised elections just around the corner, one shudders to think what these thugs in the opposition party will do to their opponents and anyone who disagrees with them.
It is in this light that we welcome pronouncements by President Mnangagwa that he will soon convene a meeting with all political parties to address these and other issues concerning the forthcoming elections.
Mr Speaker Sir, this should be the first meeting of its kind to be held before an election and it is our hope that the meeting will usher in a new way of conducting elections in the country.
The behaviour of MDC-T supporters should be condemned by any right thinking individual.
It has also shown us the extent to which the party supporters are willing to go to deal with opponents.
The high hopes that have been raised by the new dispensation should not be derailed by violence because there are better and humane ways of handling disputes and differences.
The world is watching and Mr Chamisa couldn’t have sent a worse signal of what they can do as shown by events of the past two weeks since he usurped the leadership of the party.
We just hope this won’t be carried into the harmonised elections and be blamed on Zanu-PF infiltration as has become their tradition.