Monday, 22 March 2021

I WAS FIRED UNCONSTITUTIONALLY, SAYS BITI

Tendai Biti who was kicked out of Parliament says he was removed unconstitutionally but he will continue to fight to expose corruption.

“They just fired us unconstitutionally,” Biti told DM168. “How do you fire someone who belongs to a different political party?” he asks, noting that he was a founding member of the PDP and that he and another party leader formally dissolved it before the 2018 elections that he and his fellow former PDP MPs contested on the MDC-Alliance ticket.

“So I am the PDP, we are the PDP, those are not the PDP,” he said, referring to the PDP now run by Lucia Matibenga. “We can’t fire ourselves. But it doesn’t matter. This is Emmerson,” he says.

Biti said the public accounts committee had been “doing a decent job in exposing corruption”. Its first two reports had been on government departments: the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the ministry of finance.

“We exposed massive defaults and omissions, forcing the government to bring before parliament a bill in which they sought condonation of $10.6-billion, which they had stolen and used without parliamentary approval.”

Then the public accounts committee moved on to Command Agriculture, a state programme that is supposed to help farmers grow maize on irrigated land. Instead, it had become a “feeding scheme … a feeding trough” for corrupt officials and their cronies. “So billions and billions of dollars have been stolen through Command Agriculture. Just for instance, in 2017 alone, $2.7-billion was stolen. In 2018, $3.5-billion was stolen.

“In the next few weeks we were going to table before parliament a report locating Command Agriculture in the military. So the corruption in Zimbabwe is a conflation of the securocratic state and Zanu-PF to create what I’m calling ‘the Deep State’.”

One of the cartels heavily involved in the Command Agriculture is Kuda Tagwirei, the head of the company Sakunda Holdings. “So this report will expose Kuda Tagwirei badly,” Biti said.

“Another report that I was supposed to table [on Thursday] is a report on the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority and that report will show cartels. This time white cartels.”

Biti said the report exposed the “massive corruption” where Laurence Sher, a director of Univern, had been “milking millions out of Zimbabwe” through contracts that had not gone out to tender as they should have. These included contracts for tollgates, for vehicle licensing and for collecting $10 per vehicle licence fee for travel into Zimbabwe.

Biti said the public accounts committee had also started an inquiry into the diesel-powered emergency electricity generation plant that the government had commissioned in 2014 to be built at Dema, about 100km from Harare. The plant cost more than $300-million to build and began producing 200MW of electricity in 2016.

“This contract was again given to Kuda Tagwirei of Sakunda. But he was selling his electricity at 30c a kilowatt when, at the time, Zimbabwe could have bought electricity from [Mozambique’s] Cahora Bassa’s HCB or South Africa’s Eskom at 5c a kilowatt. So how does any decent government pay a premium of 25c for a diesel power project, with all the environmental damage that diesel does?” Tagwirei also featured prominently in a report that DM168 published last month on the way Mnangagwa and his cronies had formed cartels to monopolise several lucrative sectors of Zimbabwe’s economy.

DM168 was unable to reach Tagwirei for comment. Biti said headlines had appeared about how the public accounts committee had grilled executives of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority about why they had given the diesel plant contract to Sakunda.

“So they panicked. They said to Mnangagwa, ‘You have to fire that man’.”

Though his exposure of corruption was the main reason for his firing, Biti thought the final straw was his recent visit to Chiredzi, in southeastern Zimbabwe, where the government has been planning to displace the entire Shangaan community.

The government planned to give the land to a “Mnangagwa acolyte”.

“We think there are diamonds there,” Biti said. “So in the first phase they want to take away 12,500ha; and in phase 2 and phase 3, they want to take away 21,000ha. That’s a small country; that’s bigger than Lesotho or Swaziland.”

He had tabled a report in parliament to expose the shenanigans behind the displacement of the Shangaan people. “This is Emmerson Mnangagwa who has done this,” he said. 

 Biti said he and his colleagues would, “for posterity”, file court applications challenging their expulsion from parliament. “But this is Zimbabwe,” he added, with an audible shrug. They would go through the legal motions but the only remedy would be to fight by-elections to win back their vacated seats. Daily Maverick

He vowed to continue his fight to expose corruption by whatever means. 

“They can’t really do anything against me, I’m not a criminal. I’ll not stop fighting the way I’ve been doing. This doesn’t worry me. The only regret is that we were doing such powerful work in the interests of Zimbabwe. 

“And that work will be disturbed. It’s so technical. So my advantage is that I’m a lawyer and I understand finances. I’ve run this economy. So we were able to do forensic analysis on forensic reports from a legal point of view, a constitutional point of view and then from a figures point of view. And I understand political economy. So that resource is going to be missed badly.”

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