Zimbabwe: Mugabe Spot On but . . .


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ZIMBABWE – “Sub-Standard work should never be tolerated. In this regard, we must always ensure that qualified contractors are engaged and that they are strictly supervised to guarantee acceptable results,” President Robert Mugabe was quoted saying last week at the occasion to mark the commissioning of the Harare International Airport Road.

Well said Mr President.

Zimbabwe is one of the few African countries that can still boast of having a solid infrastructural foundation.

In our case, much of it was inherited in pristine condition from the former colonial masters. Having gained independence from Britain more than 35 years ago, much of it has given in to the vagaries of weather and neglect.

On its part, government has been able to grow the stock of infrastructure, whenever it has the resources, in response to the country’s social and economic needs.

Of course, a lot still needs to be done.

But what is it that has led the Head of State to exhort his officials not to accept sub-standard work?

In recent years, most infrastructural upgrades undertaken by government have not been up to standard, which raises the important question: Why is it that nothing has been done about it?

Last week, legislators highlighted the poor workmanship on the 820-kilometre Plumtree-Mutare Highway, done at a cost of US$206 million. The rehabilitation of the Harare-Mutare Highway is another of government’s projects that leave a lot to be desired.

This trend transcends all other infrastructural projects done by the government at a huge cost to the taxpayer, who foots the bill at the end of the day.

A thorough diagnosis of the problem can reveal that this has got nothing to do with standards for Zimbabwe has got arguably some of the highest standards that could be benchmarked against the best in the world.

The only point of departure is that these standards are not being adhered to through acts of commission. In order to break this cycle of poor workmanship, those whose responsibility is to enforce the standards must be made to account for their actions.

What we seem to be deciphering out of this is collusion between financiers, contractors, those who enforce standards, government bureaucrats and officers which can only be explained in one ugly word — corruption.

While President Mugabe is spot on with regards to what needs to be done by his officials in order to make a difference, what is lacking in his government is the political will to tackle corruption, especially in high places.

The wheels of justice in Zimbabwe have tended to turn very fast when it is the small fish involved. The big fish, who are the worst culprits, seem to be immune to the justice delivery processes, which has led them to act with impunity.

President Mugabe must therefore confront this elephant in the room by tackling corruption in all its forms so that those who aggravate the vice can be made to face the music and possibly rot in jail.

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