Politicians erode public trust

March 31, 2012 at 8:16 am Leave a comment

By Clemence Manyukwe

THE failure by high-ranking government officials and top politicians to
settle their utility bills has heightened the erosion of  public trust and
confidence in those holding public office in Zimbabwe.
The major culprits are ZANU-PF members who, through their farming
activities, have consumed high volumes of water and electricity without
paying for them thereby causing widespread disenchantment and raising
questions over their eligibility to continue holding public office.
And in a case of having eyes that are bigger than their bellies, some
officials have been exposed for failure to pay bills at multiple addresses,
with others owing ZESA amounts well over US$100 000.
Failure by politicians to settle their bills has put operations of
parastatals in jeopardy. And in the case of ZESA, the power utility, it has
compromised the State-firm’s capacity to import more electricity and in the
process ruining industry and commerce’s recovery prospects. Ordinary
households have also been plunged into prolonged darkness as a result of
increased load shedding.
This week, political analyst, John Makumbe, said all those who owe
parastatals huge sums of money should step down from government because they
are not fit to hold public office due to the grave consequences of their
actions.
He painted those who paralyse national institutions through declining or
failure to pay their bills with the same brush as those who are running them
aground through systematic looting and corruption.
“They are not fit to hold public office and they should step down. What they
are doing is equivalent to looting,” Makumbe said.
“They are not fit to govern. They have been caught with their hands in the
cookie jar.”
Some ministers or former ministers who have been caught-up in the scandal
have previously taken a solemn oath of office to uphold the country’s
Constit-ution and all other laws as well as champion the good management of
the public affairs of Zimb-abwe.
Instead of seeing the error of their ways, some ministers have sought to
divert public attention through accusing those heading or in charge of the
parastatals of leaking information on debtors.
Makumbe said the other reason why water or power supplies to the influential
and the connected individuals who have defaulted have not been cut-off is
graft.
“The reason why workers at the parastatal are not cutting off supplies is
not that they are afraid. Some are being bribed not to cut off supplies.
Someone is given US$100 or US$1000 for personal use, while parastatals are
collapsing,” added Makumbe.
Last Thursday, during a House of Assembly debate, Movement for Democratic
Change Bikita West Member of Parliament, Heya Shoko, named some of the MPs
who have failed to settle their bills. Shoko said even though some named
lawmakers have blamed targeted sanctions for the country’s problems, their
actions were a form of sanctions on parastatals.
“Of note, we have Hon. Bhasikiti — US$77 828,66. He has become a parasite to
the Government of Zimbabwe. The-re is Hon. Munyaradzi Mang-wana who is
seated in this House, he also has US$41 512,94. We cannot say the Hon.
member is failing to pay. He       has been in the Constitution
Parliamentary Select Committee and he is a co-chair. He has    been getting
allowances and      he does not want to pay ZESA. Mr. Speaker Sir, we also
have    the Governor of Masvingo Province, Hon. Titus Maluleke who is now
owing US$16 857,33, that he did not pay to ZESA,” said Shoko.
“We also have the Governor of Manicaland Province who has probably become
the president of the Zimbabwe Electricity Defaulters Association, because
the man is having nearly half a million, US$367 606,07. Mr. Speaker Sir, all
these people were receiving their monthly bills, looking at them and
dropping them in their bins. Mr. Speaker Sir, Hon. Kembo Mohadi and wife owe
US$12 538,57.”
The previous day, the Minister of Youth Development, Indigen-isation and
Empowerment, Savi-our Kasukuwere had confirmed before Parliament to owing
ZESA.
So far one of the reasons proffered for non-payment by some politicians is
that they are tobacco growers who only get their windfall once a year after
the auction floors open.
However, that argument leaves more questions than answers.
Does that mean the new tobacco growers now wait to    settle other essential
obligations such as farm labourers salaries only after selling their golden
leaf? Where the previous white farmers devils after all as they     by and
large settled their debts, to avoid prejudicing parastatals? What happened
to a farming practice called crop rotation — the successive planting of
different crops on the same land to improve soil fertility and help control
insects and diseases —  which assured farmers of income all year round? What
more support do these individuals need and for how long should these
parastatals suffer in order for them to put their houses in order after they
previously accessed free inputs and farming equipment over the years?
Mary-Jane Ncube, the executive director of the local chapter of graft
watchdog, Transparency International, said the conduct by the government and
political leaders raises accountability issues.
She added there are ordinary Zimbabweans who are in a worse off financial
position than the defaulters, but they are honouring their obligations, not
because they can afford, but the law requires them to do so.
“The effect of them being public officials and them being     political
leaders does not set a good precedence for public integrity and
accountability.    They are not setting a good example, they are not setting
a good standard for ethical behaviour for the rest of society,” said Ncube.
But why have the defaulters been allowed to incur such huge debts with no
red flag being raised by the powers that be?
Political analyst, Charles Mangongera, said the reason is because Zimbabwe
has what he termed a “blood-sucking political system.”
“I think it confirms that we have a vampire State where the political elite
use their power and influence to appropriate certain material privileges at
the expense of the citizenry. How do you explain the fact that a poor widow
in Chitungwiza gets her electricity cut-off for failing to settle a bill
that is as little as US$35 yet the powers-that-be and their cronies who
collectively owe millions of dollars are not disconnected,” said
Mangong-era.

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