A system in need of fumigation
The week following the BSR on the Farm Mechanisation Scheme scandal has been hectic. The BSR caught not only ZANU PF but many people by surprise. It drew some attention from the public and intense attacks from ZANU PF and associated parties.
These attacks are not a big problem. They are a hazard of holding the government to account in an authoritarian environment. Those of us whose role is to hold power to account would not be doing our job if those in power were comfortable with what we say or do.
I believe that beyond the long-standing battle for political change, there is an even bigger task of cleaning up the profoundly corrupt system in our country. This is a hard exercise because a lot of those involved are so accustomed to the ways that they are surprised when told that what they are doing is not right.
The institutions that are supposed to fight corruption at the formal level are too compromised to carry out the job, principally because their members are also beneficiaries of systemically corrupt practices. Chickens cannot be expected to vote for Christmas.
But still, if the formal spaces are compromised, citizens must create their own spaces, first to expose the corruption and second to keep a record of corrupt conduct. This fumigation exercise is, therefore, a collective effort which requires the participation of all citizens.
Return of the Governor
First off the blocks was the former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Dr Gideon Gono, who issued a quick response through the state weekly, The Sunday Mail. It is not uncommon for retired boxers to come out of retirement for that one more shot at the title. This is often against the better judgment of those around them. The ending is never good. This was one temptation that the retired Governor ought to have resisted.
I immediately responded with another BSR on Sunday, highlighting the weaknesses of that rushed response. The former Governor returned to the drawing board and wrote another long response which was published in the Herald.
On Thursday, ZTN, the Zimpapers online television channel hosted Dr Gono and I for a debate concerning the Farm Mechanisation Debt. Chris Mugaga, CEO of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce was also part of the panel. Readers can watch the discussion on the ZTN News channel.
Meanwhile, ZANU PF issued a statement attacking me for the BSR. The ruling party’s acting spokesperson, Patrick Chinamasa accused me of making a “frontal brazen attack on the Land Redistribution Programme”. This was a typically straw man argument which they attributed to me in order for them to attack it when I made no such point. They did so in order to create dust over the improper dealings concerning the Farm Mechanisation Debt.
While Dr Gono had begun by denying that the agricultural equipment and machinery was given in the form of a loan agreement with each beneficiary, by the time of the ZTN interview, he had admitted that it was initially a loan which was later converted into a grant. It had become impossible to deny the existence of the loans in the face of abundant evidence to the contrary.
At the BSR, we are satisfied with the modest contribution we have made to the national debate on the issue of transparency and accountability, even though that comes with risk. A matter that was seemingly long-buried has captured the national imagination. That is the least we could have asked for when the BSR began five years ago.
The BSR made many people excited and angry, albeit for different reasons.
First, some were angry with the fact that they were named in this scandalous matter because it brought them great embarrassment. Some of them have always presented themselves as clean individuals. Others have given the impression that they were self-made businesspersons or farmers. Suddenly, it became apparent that they too were beneficiaries of a scheme that fleeced the public. The BSR peeled the veil of perfection and they did not like it. But the BSR was not about embarrassing anyone. If they never got the equipment, they only had to say so.
Second, followers of individuals on the list were unhappy that their heroes had been named as beneficiaries in this scandalous scheme. They did not challenge the fact that it had happened. They simply did not want to know or to believe. Instead of questioning their heroes’ conduct, they directed their anger at the messenger. Burying heads in the sand and misdirected anger are common weaknesses of the human species. Instead of confronting a problem, people look for excuses. It’s important to have the courage to look at your hero in the eye and tell him or her when they have gone wrong.
Third, was a group which felt that the BSR had been selective in its approach. But this was based on the assumption that there were names which were deliberately omitted. These critics formed an opinion and convinced themselves what they were looking for had been left out. That was not so. We worked with what we had at the time and in any event, indicated that there would be a second part. We called upon those who had the full list, and those in authority have it, to fill in the gaps. They still have the opportunity to do so, and disclosure is in the public interest.
Fourth, some were unhappy because a scheme that had been deliberately kept secret was now out in the open, revealing things that they would have liked to remain out of the public domain for a long time. Unbeknown to most people, it was not just the ordinary people who were seeing this list for the first time. The beneficiaries themselves had never seen it before. For 12-13 years they had lived in blissful ignorance of who got what among them, believing they had all got the same or similar benefits. The revelations have exposed the ugly fact that some among them got disproportionately far more than the others. This is causing tension and internal ructions. I refer to this as “The day after the robbery” scenario.
The day after the robbery
Imagine a gang of robbers who go out on separate missions to rob and steal, with the agreement that they would all meet up the next morning to share the loot.
When they meet up in the morning, each robber declares their loot and they share equally. Let’s assume each one gets $10,000. Everyone is happy. They go home and lie low for a while before they start spending.
But imagine that 30 days later, it emerges that a few of the gang members did not declare the true extent of their loot. They under-declared and kept amounts ranging from $20,000 to $30,000 each to themselves.
Obviously, the culprits will be angry that their devious trick has been discovered, while the rest will be unhappy that fellow gang members were dishonest and unfair. This circumstance is bound to cause serious tensions within the gang. It is bound to cause fighting and might even lead to a complete breakdown in relations. At the very least, there will be no more trust between the gang members.
This is quite an appropriate analogy in this situation. The revelations have exposed the fundamental imbalances within the ZANU PF system; even there, some eat far more than others. The greatest fear is not that the rest of Zimbabweans now know what happened during the Farm Mechanisation Scheme, but that ZANU PF’s political elites now know that there are serious disparities and inequalities even amongst themselves.
They are looking at each other and saying, “Did he really get that?” Some are saying “How come we got so little?”, while others are crying, “How come we got nothing?”. The revelations have shown that there is corruption within a corrupt system. That is the price you pay for an opaque and unaccountable system. Everyone might have believed keeping the secret of the Farm Mechanisation Scheme was in the group’s interests, but it is now clear that it was only in the interests of the few amongst them who had benefited the most.
Imagine a top General in the military who got a loan of US$111,584.00 while a junior politician walked away with US$462,999.00 and a former President of Malawi is listed as having received US$124,111.00? Imagine a General who got less than US$100,000.00 while the Mombeshora family got half a million dollars? The Generals are unlikely to be amused by such a situation. But they were blissfully ignorant of the facts before the revelations.
If you look at the list of judges who benefited from this scheme - the majority of them got under US$100,000.00 loans. It’s not little money, but it’s tiny compared to what government officials, ministers and other politically exposed persons got. Even lawyers who appear before them and earn well in private practice got more than they did. It must be disheartening to discover this.
Without the list, they would never have known that they were short-changed, and yet when criticism and condemnation comes, they have the most to lose because of the nature of their job. If the judges had known that they were getting a pittance compared to other beneficiaries, they might have demanded more or rejected it because it’s not worth the pain and damage they have suffered.
Was this a corrupt scheme?
Former Governor, Dr Gono and ZANU PF acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa have defended the Farm Mechanisation Scheme, arguing that it was not corrupt. However, the manner in which it was administered leaves a lot to be desired. It is the lack of transparency, the subsequent inconsistency over the nature of the scheme and the patently unequal and inequitable distribution that predominantly favours selected political elites that has given rise to suspicions of corruption.
The insistence of keeping a lid on the list of beneficiaries also feed the corruption allegations. If everything were open and transparent, there would be less concerns. A lot of bad things happen under cover of darkness. This will become more apparent later in this BSR when we discuss the issue of obscure entities that are listed as beneficiaries under the scheme.
The fact that the loans were converted into grants by persons who were beneficiaries of the Farm Mechanisation Scheme raises serious questions of conflicts of interest. Dr Gono shifted responsibility for the policy change onto the government. But the BSR showed that Ministers were among the biggest beneficiaries of the scheme. When they sat in Cabinet and agreed to convert the debts into grants, they were heavily conflicted and should never have participated in that decision-making process.
Likewise when MPs deliberated and voted on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Debt Assumption Bill in 2015, most of them were seriously conflicted because they were beneficiaries of the scheme. This is evident in a video clip in which Temba Mliswa, MP brazenly and arrogantly tells a workshop that as MPs they had passed the Bill to expunge the debt so that they would not have to repay it.
What’s a divorce got to do with it?
A case of matrimonial harmony that has run its course might not seem like the source of evidence of corruption in a scheme run by a central bank. But to a keen eye, clues of corruption can pop up anywhere. When Ruzivo and Chipo Musvosvi tied the matrimonial knot on 29 August 1987 and promised to live happily ever after, no one at the Salvation Army congregation in Highfields would have imagined that the end of that journey would yield proof of a national scheme.
The case came before Family Court judge, Justice Mawadze and the reference for the cyclostyled judgment is HH-163-13. There was, as often happens in such cases, some acrimony and contestation over the matrimonial property. Two of the items that were contested were a tractor and plough. The question was whether these two items were matrimonial property and therefore eligible for division between the parties.
The judge found that the two items did not belong to the couple. Instead, they belonged to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. This is where our interest in the divorce matter revolves - the tractor and the plough and how it came to be in the couple’s possession. The corruption lies in how the tractor and the plough were allocated to the husband by the RBZ. The judge described the events as follows:
“It is common cause that the tractor and plough were acquired by the plaintiff (husband) from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), through the farm mechanisation programme in 2007. While both parties admitted that they do not own any farm the plaintiff nonetheless acquired the tractor and the plough which he says are being used at his parents’ farm.”
It is clear that Musvosvi did not own a farm, but he was allocated a tractor and a plough under the Farm Mechanisation Scheme. However, in their defence of the scheme, Governor Gono and Patrick Chinamsa argued that equipment was allocated to new farmers to assist them to work the land. But the Musvosvi couple were not farmers. They had no land. Yet, as the court found, they were given a tractor and a plough. There are plenty of farmers out there who deserve tractors. But they did not get them while the Musvosvi couple did, a fact they themselves confessed to a court of law.
Clearly, this case shows there were serious weaknesses in the administration of the Farm Mechanisation Scheme. For how else would the Musvosvi couple have acquired a tractor and a plough when they are not farmers? There is here, prima facie evidence of corruption. But the question is: how much more like this happened during the allocations? But there is more that the case reveals.
Proof it was a loan
The case also reveals that the machinery and equipment under the Farm Mechanisation Scheme was allocated as a loan and that the RBZ had frail systems and controls. For example, one of the exhibits produced in court was a “document from RBZ issued to the plaintiff with the general terms and conditions of the Loan Agreement which was signed between the beneficiary (plaintiff) and Fiscort (Pvt) Ltd representing the RBZ”. This is how the judge described the events:
“The plaintiff in his evidence indicated that the property was loaned to him by RBZ and was not immediately transferred into his name. The terms and conditions were that RBZ would advise the plaintiff of the value of the tractor and the plough after which the plaintiff would start to make payments. This process has not started despite that the plaintiff has been using the property for 5 years from 2007. According to the plaintiff the property can only change ownership from RBZ to him after he would have paid the agreed price. The plaintiff was not even aware of the value of the tractor and plough at time of acquisition and even now.”
So the RBZ simply allocated public property to individuals and made no follow-ups. This shows a clear disregard for and abuse of public property. This is why some people on the list of beneficiaries are understandably unhappy because they were probably never told the value of the loans they got by the lender. But then, being the decent people they are, did they not realise that this was improper? Or did they think it was manna from the heavens? Some may have wanted to pay back, and some of them stated that they tried, but they had no route to do so. Some indeed claim that they paid back, but their names are still on the list, again a failing of the system. The evidence shows that the administration of the scheme was poor and it opened room for corruption.
The case is just a microcosm of what was wrong with the Farm Mechanisation Scheme. The question was never WHY the Farm Mechanisation Scheme was introduced but HOW it was administered. In particular, it is about the improprieties that went on behind the opaque cover. The fact that loans were later converted into grants, with the bill being placed on the shoulders of taxpayers is unjust. Keeping it a secret has meant all these things remained unexamined. Only now has Pandora’s box been opened and the contents are ugly.
Testimonies from members of the public since the BSR suggest rampant abuse of public property allocated under the Farm Mechanisation Scheme. For example, some beneficiaries got more tractors than they required. They might have sold them or more commonly, leased them to other farmers for a fee. In the rural areas, as we shall see, traditional leaders also got equipment but they charged a fee to members of the community for its use. These are the outcomes of corruption. It generates rent-seeking behaviour, with people who get what they don’t need or more than their fair share charging “rents” to those who need the equipment and machinery.
This means these taxpayers are paying double - they are paying the bill for the equipment and a fee for using it whenever they hire from the beneficiaries. It’s double-taxation for the ordinary citizens. The beneficiaries justify their loot by arguing that they feed the nation, as if they give away their produce for free. They are socialists when they acquire equipment, asking citizens to pay the bill, but they turn into capitalists when they sell their produce, asking citizens to pay the bill.
Who paid the Bill and where did the money come from?
One of the issues that has arisen is whether the Farm Mechanisation Debt was part of the RBZ Debt Assumption Act. Governor Gono and others have argued that it wasn’t. The Act was enacted to transfer the debts owed by the RBZ to the State. As the State is funded by the taxpayer, the correct position is that the debt was transferred from the RBZ to the taxpayer. The total debt was more than US$1 billion. It was incurred by the RBZ when it engaged in quasi-fiscal activities - these were activities that were outside its remit; things that were supposed to be done by the State.
The Farm Mechanisation Scheme was one such activity. For its part, the RBZ was owed more than a billion dollars by the State, but it was not paying the bill. Meanwhile, the RBZ was being sued by its creditors. For example, Farmtec Spares & Implements supplied tractors to the RBZ under the Farm Mechanisation Scheme. The RBZ failed to pay for the tractors and Farmtec sued and won its case. It attached both movable and immovable property belonging to the RBZ to be sold to recover its debt of US$2.1 million. The government then issued a law, through the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act, to protect the property by equating RBZ property to property of the State. This left Farmtec in a quandary.
Farmtec was not alone. Other creditors of the RBZ were caught up in the same predicament. They had judgments against the RBZ but they could not attach its property to recover their debts. In another case in the Bulawayo High Court, 3 other companies were stopped by a judge from selling off the RBZ’s property. They were Seedco, which was owed US$3.6 million; Art Holdings owed US$387 313,00 and ZAR485 566,00; Lawrence Tamayi, owed US$23 749,58 and Charter Holdings, which was owed US$90 200,48. Therefore, the RBZ was in a difficult situation.
The debts that were assumed by the State from the RBZ are listed in the schedule. It is not true that none of the debts under the Farm Mechanisation Scheme were included under the Debt Assumption Act. For example, a perusal of the schedule to the Act shows that the US$2.1 million debt to Farmtec is listed at item no. 33. Of course, it’s only a small amount in the US$200 million Farm Mechanisation Debt but it gives a clue that this debt was shifted to the taxpayer both under the Act and by other means.
For example, when the RBZ raided foreign currency accounts in 2007, that money was used to pay creditors and that debt was transferred to the taxpayer under the Act. Items 11,12 and 13 of the schedule are FCA Corporate (US$70,5 million), FCA NGOs (US$17,6 million) and FCA Parastatals (US$67 million) representing money which was raided from the foreign currency accounts. These debts had ballooned to US$131,9 million; US$25,7 million; US$99 million as at 31 December 2013.
When pressed to explain where the money to pay for the Farm Mechanisation Debt came from Dr Gono could only say it was internally generated and that some accounting methods had been applied. But in the end it was clear that the bill for the Farm Mechanisation had been carried by the taxpayer and that the principal beneficiaries had participated in that process. This represents a serious conflict of interest, itself a sign of corruption.
It’s essential to understand the Farm Mechanisation Scheme as a process, which involves the procurement of the equipment and machinery on one end and the allocation and distribution on the other end. It is possible for corruption to be located at both ends of the process: procurement and allocation. So far, the focus has been on allocation end; looking at who got what and how much they owed under the scheme. There is a need to look at the supply end: who supplied the equipment and machinery and at what price?
Corruption at the supply side of the process includes the selection of the supplier and price inflation of the goods. This is why public contracts should go through a public tender process. We saw this recently in Draxgate, the case concerning the procurement of medical supplies by NatPharm and the Ministry of Health during the COVID19 pandemic. Items worth less that US$4 each were being sold to the government by Drax for US$28 each. We also heard how the government was paying more than US$400,000 for Land Cruiser vehicles that should be US$100,000. Drax got the contract without going to tender. It was a private arrangement, presenting opportunities for corruption.
There is no evidence of suppliers to the Farm Mechanisation Scheme going through a public tender process. For example, Farmtec Spares was owed US$2,1 million for the supply of 60 tractors and the debt was transferred to the taxpayers under the RBZ Debt Assumption Act. But did Farmtec Spares go through a competitive process to win this contract? Who are the beneficial owners of Farmtec Spares?
The million-dollar question is who were the other suppliers of this equipment and machinery under the Farm Mechanisation Scheme and were the goods given accurate valuations? This is because if there were conflicts of interest, the goods may have been overvalued and the taxpayers are paying even more than they ought to.
Therefore, while it is well and good that the list of beneficiaries is available, it is also important to know the list of suppliers and therefore the creditors who Zimbabwean taxpayers had to pay to satisfy the debt. Since most of the suppliers are likely to be companies like Farmtec Spares, it would also be important to know the identity of the beneficial owners of these entities. The fear, indeed, the suspicion is that RBZ insiders and their associates dominated the supply side.
It is not too late to do a forensic audit of the supply side of the Farm Mechanisation Scheme. In addition to demanding that beneficiaries pay back the money, there is a need to demand full disclosure of the suppliers and their beneficial owners.
Returning to the beneficiaries of the Farm Mechanisation Scheme, I pointed out that there is likely to be some tension considering what some senior generals got compared to their peers and indeed, compared to the politicians. Current Vice President and former Commander of the Defence Forces, Rtd. General Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga is listed as having got equipment worth US$395,018.00. His successor General Phillip Valerio Sibanda got US$111,584.00. The current army boss, Lt. General Edzai Chimonyo is punching in the lower divisions at US$92,577.00. Former military boss, the late General Vitalis Zvinavashe is listed at US$85,350.00
However, current police boss Commissioner General Godwin T. Matanga is listed at US$365,839.00. His predecessor Rtd. Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri’s loan was worth US$299,697.00, while another former top cop, Commissioner Oliver Chibage is listed as having received a loan worth US$151,933.00. Former Air Force boss and current Agriculture Minister Rtd. Air Marshal Perrence Shiri is stated as having received machinery and equipment worth US$417,547.00 while Prisons boss Commissioner General Paradzai Zimondi had a loan of US$379,980.00.
Military spokesperson Overson Mugwisi is in the lightweight division along with the judges at US$50,677.00, well below most politicians and senior civil servants. A former soldier who had been deployed to the Ministry of Health as Permanent Secretary, Rtd. Major General Dr. Gerald Gwinji also punched light at US$73,699.00.
Rtd. Lt. General Engelbert Rugeje who is a former army chief of staff and also most recently political commissar of ZANU PF is listed with two separate loans totalling US$88,487.00 but former intelligence boss Aaron Nhepera is listed at US$333,869.00. Another former intelligence chief who had a brief stint as Justice Minister during Mugabe’s last days in power, Happyton Bonyongwe is listed as having been given equipment worth US$422,459.00 for his farm in Odzi. Another top intelligence officer, the late Mernard Muzariri was not far behind at US$391,070.00.
However, a senior cop in the notorious Law and Order section, Crispen Makedenge was among the lowest at just US$11,400.00 worth of equipment and machinery. He will be disappointed with these numbers especially seeing that the politicians are so far ahead of him.
Political elites and PEPs
More information as the week has progressed shows more Ministers and PEPs who benefited from the scheme. Names of some former senior RBZ staffers include Azvinandava Saburi with a loan of US$83,730.00; Norman Mataruka at US$105.505.00. Former Ministers include Jonathan Moyo listed at US$56,676.00; Saviour Kasukuwere US$159,208.00. The late Shuvai Mahofa owed US$69,775.00, while Omar Joosbi is listed at US$90,175.00. The late Dick Makoni Chingaira (Cde Chinx) was a beneficiary of US$99,285.00Former Tourism Minister, Walter Mzembi is listed at US$81,759.00.
Some of the former ministers have during the week admitted to receiving equipment under the scheme but some claim to have paid. Similarly, there are others who do not appear on the list, such as Kudakwashe Bhasikiti who indicated they had received the equipment but had paid for it. This contradicted the claim by the authorities that the equipment was free.
There are also businesspersons and executives who are listed as beneficiaries. They include Charles Tawengwa who got a loan of US$41,895. In a divorce case in 2017, a Family Court heard that Tawengwa owned 3 immovable properties in Harare and shareholding in 5 other immovable properties owned by companies that had links to him. This is cited to show that like other beneficiaries, he was a man of means who could get a loan without having to rely on taxpayer funds. Taxpayers who own nothing are paying for these elites’ debts even though the elites have multiple properties.
Apart from a successful professional career in auditing and accounting, as well as corporate directorships, Ngoni Kudenga runs a thriving farm near Waddilove Mission in Mashonaland East. He appears on the list with a loan of equipment worth US$296,794.00. Cuthbert Dube, who was controversially cited in 2015 in the Salary-gate Scandal at PSMAS, the public service health insurance company, also appears as the beneficiary of a loan of US$86,634.00.
Mavis Gumbo, a name that has featured in some controversial deals, including the Zimbabwe Airways matter, appears on the list with a loan of US$96,994.00. A vocal name in indigenisation circles in the 1990s, Jane Mutasa appears for a loan of US$99,901.00.
Last week we saw entities like Zimbabwe House, H.E.. and Kutama Day Secondary School, which got substantial amounts of loan equipment and machinery. There are quite a few others, which could benefit from further investigation as to who really is beyond the names. Although some of them are suggestive, we have resisted the temptation to speculate.
For example, there are distributions under “Strategic Equipment Delivery” in some provinces. Mashonaland Central got equipment worth US$193,142; Midlands got US$113,198 while Masvingo led the pack with US$2,292,698.00. The term “Strategic Equipment Delivery” is obscure and could mean anything and presumably, those in the know will furnish explanations. Some insiders have revealed that some equipment was distributed in the run up to the June 27 presidential run-off elections. Mashonaland West had one called the “Governor’s Special Project” at US$161,806.00. There is another referred to as one “Masvingo South Constituency with a total of US$365,620.00”.
There is a “Chapwanya Business Centre”, in Manicaland which has 10 unnamed items valued at US$24,000 each for a total of US$240,000.00. Another lucky business centre was “Chitsa Business Centre” which got an allocation of US$343,275.00. In the Midlands, “Mvuma Police Station” also received 9 unnamed items also valued at US$24,000 each for a total of US$216,000. There is also an allocation of US$360,000.00 to “Mvuma Command Centre”. “Gwebo” received 6 items valued at US$24,000 each for a total of US$120,000.00. There is an allocation to “Bindura Hotel” of US$196,974.00. It’s not clear why a private hotel should be given agricultural equipment and machinery under a public scheme.
Nuanetsi Ranch was the beneficiary of US$1,052,385.00, one of the largest single allocations despite having a C credit rating. “Karoi Offices” had 3 items valued at US$23,894.00 each for a total of US$71,682.00. “Hippo Valley Country Club” was one of the largest single beneficiaries with an allocation of US$1,689,900.00. This allocation consisted of tractors and ploughs. Another large recipient in Masvingo is listed simply as “Mupandawana DA Office” which got US$2,554,024.00, one of the largest amounts. In addition, “Mupandawana Gutu” got a loan of US$82,400.00.
The problem with these obscure entities is that there is no information on the record concerning the beneficial owners of the entities or the actual beneficiaries. For example, the Governor of Mashonaland West can simply say he provided equipment to people in the province under the “Governor’s Special Project” but there is no way of knowing whether that actually happened. Who are the beneficiaries of the large allocation which went to “Hippo Valley Country Club” or “Chapwanya Business Centre”? Does a country club engage in farming activities?
If a commercial bank dealt with obscure entities like this, it would be guilty of breaching anti-money laundering laws. It would be accused of assisting clients in washing their dirty proceeds of crime. The central bank has insisted it was following the law, even in not disclosing names of beneficiaries, but it is far worse that it has obscure beneficiaries on its distribution list. This is a far more problematic violation of laws against money laundering. As the regulator, it demands that banks should have proper Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures. It doesn't seem like the central bank applied its KYC standards in these allocations.
There are some heavy-hitters whose names do not register immediately on the political radar but are impossible to overlook because of the substantial numbers involved. They include, Fanuel Dube (Nyamakiri Farm) listed with a loan of US$592,252.00, certainly one of the biggest individual numbers; Temba Nkatazo at US$323,329.00; Andrew Tapomwa at US$375,140.00; Godwin Chitsinde with US$342,717.00 and an E. Mashiringwane at US$359,648.00
Another group of beneficiaries were the traditional leaders, mainly chiefs. By far the biggest beneficiary in this group was the long-serving President of the National Council of Chiefs, Chief Fortune Charumbira Fortune whose loan amounted to US$306,509.00, an amount which includes a Combine Harvester. This allocation dwarfs distributions to all other chiefs, judges and some generals. Chief Livingstone Negomo, who infamously fined former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai nearly a decade ago for allegedly breaching traditional rules, is listed with a loan of US$11,299.00. Many other chiefs also got minor loans. They include Chiefs Musana, Masembura, Kandeya, Chiswiti, Nambire, Matope, Madziva, Chitemamuswe, Ziki, Serima, Nhema.
Traditional leaders are an important institution in Zimbabwean social and political life. They have always been targets of patronage by governments since colonial times. They are often given gifts and trinkets to keep them onside. Just like colonial regimes, the post-independence regimes have made effective use of traditional leaders by ensuring they are given comforts that are beyond their subjects. They command loyalty and their political clout is influential in the rural areas. The High Court ruled against Chief Charumbira before the 2018 elections, after his politically partisan conduct was challenged. It didn’t make a difference.
When one is getting enormous benefits from a political system, it is easy to see why they will hesitate before biting the hand that feeds them. As we have seen in the previous BSR, opaque schemes like the Farm Mechanisation Scheme are a serious danger to the idea of strong institutions. Such schemes allow for the capture of institutions which are supposed to be independent. The moment their members become recipients of freebies, which depend on the benevolence and discretion of the giver, then there is a serious problem as beneficiaries become beholden to the benefactor. This creates weak institutions. Judges, military generals, chiefs, commissioners and other public officers of the State should never be placed in a situation where they become grateful recipients of freebies from a small group that control public funds.
The BSRs on the Farm Mechanisation Programme have demonstrated the serious problems that occur in opaque schemes that are covered in secrecy. Most Zimbabweans who are paying the debts of the elites who got the lion’s share of the benefits under this programme are rightly appalled by the situation and are demanding payback.
The fact that the RBZ Debt Assumption Act was enacted for the State to take up some of the debt added insult to injury. Even if it is argued that the Act did not cover the Farm Mechanisation Debt (which is false) the fact remains that since the government took up the debts, the burden eventually fell upon the taxpayer. There is no justice whatsoever in making the poor carry obligations on behalf of the wealthy elites.
The scheme was poorly administered, which opened gaps for corruption. This BSR has also suggested there was corruption on the supply side of the scheme and to clear suspicions, it is necessary to reveal the suppliers and their beneficial owners and whether public procurement processes were followed. So in addition to the question of who were the beneficiaries is the question, who were the suppliers?
For ZANU PF elites, they have also learnt that opaque processes only favour a few among them. Many of them have learned that they got very little or nothing at all compared to their peers. Keeping the list or indeed any list of beneficiaries only favours those in the role of allocating freebies because then they can keep everyone in the dark.
Finally, while these BSRs have been about a historical scheme from more than a decade ago, the same issues arise concerning present-day programmes. This includes Command Agriculture and the distribution of tractors under the recent John Deere Scheme. It also includes the extraction of national resources, where a few elite families and their associates are benefiting more than others. They do so in the name of ZANU PF and the rest defend them in the name of ZANU PF, but really, it is just a personal family affair.