Nevanji Munyaradzi Chiondegwa
Looting, a much abused word in Zimbabwe, and it is thrown into any random conversation with people on social media especially, those supporting the other political hue.
What is looting? Looting is the act of stealing, or the taking of goods by force, typically in the midst of a military, political, or other social crisis, such as war, natural disasters, or rioting.
Now that we have the definition of looting, let’s look at what is happening in Zimbabwe and let’s see if there is any such activity leading to looting.
Zimbabwe is undergoing infrastructure development which has for the past 20 years has gone through decay.
Infrastructure is important for faster economic growth and alleviation of poverty in the country.
Adequate infrastructure in the form of road and railway transport system, ports, power, ICT, airports and their efficient working is needed for integration of the Zimbabwean economy with other economies of the world.
Developing countries rely on international borrowing to finance special projects, infrastructure and to compensate for needed revenue which cannot be obtained through taxation.
This is where Zimbabwe suffers, they don’t have that ability to borrow from the international market or from multilateral lending institutions.
Both IMF and World Bank have instructions via the United States representatives on the Board of Gorvenors to deny any request for debt from Zimbabwe.
This cripples Zimbabwe’s ability to borrow funds to develop infrastructure.
So, the current infrastructure development that is occurring in Zimbabwe is wholly funded by local funds raised from taxation or issuing of bonds by the Government. Government has avoided printing money.
The Zimbabwean government has resisted the urge to print money largely because debt does not create inflation in itself.
If government printed money, it would be devaluing the money of everyone who had saved or invested, whereas if it borrow money and use taxes to repay it, the burden falls more evenly across the economy and does not disproportionately penalise certain sets of people.
The ability to borrow outside has been eliminated leaving Zimbabwe with only two methods to raise money; taxation and internal borrowing.
People have complained of how heavy the tax burden in Zimbabwe is but have missed the reasons for the heavy tax burden, which is sanctions which exclude us from borrowing outside.
In Zimbabwe, the biggest formal employer is the Government with over half of the formally employed people being employed in the civil service or quasi-government organisations.
This means effectively, largest revenue is from government itself in the first place via taxes from employees.
The tax pool is not very large. If the Government does not borrow, it may not even be able to meet its obligations to civil servants.
In the past, Government has failed to meet its salary obligations on time but that has since largely changed since the New Dispensation with even bonuses coming on time.
What then it means that with Government needing to finance infrastructure development, Agriculture, health and other social services like education, boreholes, diptanks, schools, etc and still pay salaries, there is little left in the National purse for anyone to loot!
Tendai Laxton Biti, the Finance Minister during the Government of National Unit which ran from 2009 to 2013 knows this and experienced this.
He can testify that he had to force austerity on the people without calling it that but he chose the ‘eat what you kill’ phrase.
He can grandstand now and posture about and make accusations merely based on political fiddling but he left US$273.00 in the National Treasury at the end of his term.
Now who would loot that?
So what is it the Hopewell Chin’onos the late Dewa Mavhinga, the Farai Maguwus, the Fadzayi Mahere and the dishonesty Biti call looting really?
What is being looted and from where is it being looted? Is it possible to loot what does not exist? More to the point, is there any looting?
I have previously shown that infrastructure projects are normally funded from international loans from multilateral lenders such as African Development Bank, IMF and World Bank.
This is the standard worldwide n these institutionshave a list of infrastructure developers and an agreed type of infrastructure they push for and approve payment.
Zimbabwe does not access IMF and World Bank funds and therefore does not afford to hire said developers nor can those developers come to Zimbabwe out of their own volition.
It also means that our infrastructure can only be developed according to what the country can afford.
This means instead of constructing dual lanes for the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway which is part of the North/South Corridor, we have to make do with widening of the existing road to internationally accepted standards.
We can not build suspended or fancy arch bridges, we have to make do with what we can afford.
One therefore can not in wisdom compare Zimbabwean infrastructure and other countries not part under the same economic regime
One may ask what of Chinese loans and Japanese assistance we have received?
The Chinese funding, like all other finding to Zimbabwe is affected by sanctions.
Yes, the sanctions are international and affect even those who are our friends because the source of funds in the international financial market.
Naturally, it means debt to Zimbabwe is more expensive because of country risk and the financial risk involved in lending to a country under OFAC.
So the Chinese to circumvent the sanctions and attendant penalties will bring most of the funds as equipment and material for use.
This, while it means Zimbabwe get its infrastructure, it still means we don’t get much in return on transfer technology, funds inflow and an increase in goods manufactured locally.
We will have basically exported money which we did not have in the first place. We will still need to pay off the debt.
So the Chinese can only bring only about 10% of the capital funds borrowed and salaries and accessories such as some material aggregates which they can’t possibly purchase in China.
The rest is used to purchase equipment from the country of origin.
They also engage and pay their own contractors directly. Same with Japanese assistance.
What many have alleged to be corruption, is merely a cost of doing business caused by the sanction regime which apart from barring us from accessing international credit lines increase the cost of doing business in Zimbabwe.
This then defeats the claim that there is any looting considering there is nothing to loot.
Why the noise about looting then if the above is the scenario?
Merely to distract people from seeing and appreciating the development. It is using the media as a poisoned pill.
Keeping people angry and thinking that there is something they are losing due to Government corruption.
It is easy to allege corruption and looting but very hard to prove it once given the opportunity. Tendai Biti while Minister ended up realising there was not much income Government could raise and enede up begging foreign powers to lift sanctions which he admitted then were not beneficial to anyone!
In 2018 after their electoral loss, Biti declared that ZANU PF will not get a cent for they will beg for more sanctions.
Many may miss something there but let me enlighten you; Tendai Laxton Biti knew and rather knows that there is little anyone can take from Treasury nor do with the little from Treasury.
He therefore knew that shutting credit lines would cripple Zimbabwe!
That shutting those lines did not cripple Zimbabwe nor create the implosion he and his ilk expected as had been predicted by their Western funders is all down to the brilliance of President Mnangagwa in appointing the Two Finance Mandarins: Professor Mthuli Ncube and George Guvamatanga to aid the Mutambara Villager Dr John Panonetsa Mangudya in keeping th ship afloat.
That the ship did not only stay afloat but has managed to keep sailing and even reached several ports and delivered goods has only inflamed them.
It therefore needed a new way to distract from the sailing ship! Allegations of corruption! They tried human rights violations via demonstrations and alleged abductions and that failed so allegations had to be invented.
Sure there have been cases that have raised eyebrows but they have not been of corruption nut rather bad judgement calls and dereliction of duty. Hardly criminal offences but moral ones. One gets fired for those but cannot in all honesty be jailed.
Dr Obadiah Moyo signed a contract which was prejudicial to Government merely out of failure to exercise due diligence. The contract was terminated, there was no exchange of money nor did Government pay the so-called $60 million but we have not been given rest on the issue.
We hear all the time of how Obadiah Moyo looted $60 million but nobody has ever shown where the money came from or went!
What is there though is that the contract was terminated and has not been actioned.
Dr Moyo has been exonerated by the courts of any crime and because stupidity is not a jailable offence, he simply lost his job.
Price Mupfumira gave bad business advise to a board which failed to do due diligence and lost money all on its on due to poor investments.
Nobody is questioning this board which took bad business advice merely because they prefer to hear that Prisca Mupfumira stole $75 million.
I could go on and on but the real scenario is, there is no looting for there is nothing to loot in Zimbabwe.
It is a statement conjured up to divert the masses or create a mass hysteria of false allegations.
The claims of looting and the huge figures thrown about are nothing but shock tactics.
There is no way one could take such money as $3 billion allegedly looted by Kudakwashe Tagwirei or even the $60 million by Obadiah Moyo and still be living in Zimbabwe.
They will make you think that this money was meant for schools, hospitals etc but make you ignore the schools, hospitals and roads being built and official opened countrywide.
They thrive on creating chaos and keeping everyone angry otherwise apart from that, they have no real message to sell to the people.
Truth be told, the looting allegations are a myth!