Land barons: Jury still out on Mnangagwa 

Owen Gagare

IF Zimbabwe were a normal country, revelations that ruling party bigwigs and politically-connected land barons, housing co-operative leaders and property developers illegally sold $3 billion worth of urban state land since 2005 for self-enrichment, would have been a shocker and heads would surely have rolled.

Such impunity and anarchy does not exist in normal countries where the rule of law and property rights are respected.It is, however, business as usual in Zimbabwe.

The findings by the Justice Tendai Uchena-chaired Commission of Inquiry into the Sale of State Land in and around Urban Settlements provides talk for another day as ordinary folk discuss how corruption has taken root and how the political elite continue to loot the country’s resources for self-aggrandisement.

Zimbabweans have seen it all, be it the looting of the country’s minerals — particularly diamonds, gold and chrome.Zimbabweans have witnessed the government raiding their bank accounts for foreign currency and replacing it with worthless bond notes.

We have witnessed public funds being stolen through shady government programmes like Command Agriculture, where disbursements of up to US$3 billion are made without parliamentary approval.

Like most looting schemes, it was controlled by corrupt and politically connected individuals, who then failed to adequately account for the funds received.
Very few have forgotten how senior government officials corruptly benefitted the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s agricultural mechanisation programme.

Needless to say the majority failed to pay for the “loans” only for their debts to be paid using public funds through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Act.

To this day the beneficiaries of the Act have not been made public, never mind the fact that taxpayer funds were used to pay off the debts.

The latest findings by the commission found that at least 431 cases of suspected corruption in the sale of state land need to be investigated and prosecuted.

In addition, the commission found that hordes of people who bought stands from land barons were defrauded after finding that their stands were on wetlands, servitudes, sites earmarked for schools, clinics and recreation or other places where housing was not allowed.

The findings were handed over to President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday. Mnangagwa assured the commission that government would leave no stone unturned in bringing land barons to book.

We have heard such promises before, but he, like his predecessor and mentor former president Robert Mugabe, has so far proved to be all talk but no action as far as corruption is concerned.

The jury is still out on Mnangagwa and the public will be waiting to see if real action is taken to stamp out corruption.
It cannot be business as usual.

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