News Column

Another Wild Goose Chase?

July 4, 2014

Stewart Chabwinja



FINANCE minister Patrick Chinamasa is expected to lead a 20-member inter-ministerial delegation to China as government ratchets up efforts to secure scarce funding critical in implementing its economic blueprint, ZimAsset.

The team, scheduled to depart on Tuesday on a 10-day working visit to "study the working of the Chinese economy at the invitation of the Chinese government", includes Small and Medium Enterprises minister Sithembiso Nyoni, Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha and ministry officials.

Given the close relations between Zimbabwe and "all-weather friend" China, the Zanu PF government should by now have mastered the workings of the Chinese economy. There have been several other such trips to China at the highest level, but little in the way of tangible results.

In 2006 -- the period leading up to the climax of the country's socio-economic crisis -- Vice-President Joice Mujuru led a delegation on a similar week-long visit to China. She was feted and taken on a tour of China's industrial might, while Zimbabwean ministries and companies "signed deals with Chinese firms for the supply of broadcasting transmission, irrigation, tillage and construction equipment".

Certainly, there were no handouts, or the bailout package Zimbabwe was clamouring for then, as indeed now.

So in a way, Chinamasa and his team are embarking on what could be described as a revision study exercise, assuming lessons were learnt from the previous high-profile junkets to the Asian giant.

Instructively, the delegation travels at a time China's anti-graft crusade is at full throttle, with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday expelling four heavyweights from the ruling Communist Party, including a retired top general.

Such would be inconceivable back home, where a thriving patronage network certifies many Zanu PF mandarins untouchable.

In a statement released Monday, Xi and other Chinese leaders restated their "zero tolerance for corruption in the government and military ... "

Sadly, Zimbabwe's anti-corruption fight is yet to splutter into life despite constant media revelations of lurid graft and "obscene" salaries at parastatals, state entities and local authorities.

Even Mugabe's repeated public allegations that certain ministers and government officials have been soliciting for bribes have failed to spark a graft crackdown.

It will also be remembered Chinamasa undertook a similar trip to China early this year only to return empty-handed. It is tough to imagine he will meet better fortunes this time given the risk-averse Chinese concerns persist.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe still awaits the conclusion of a "comprehensive financial aid package" from China as promised by Chinamasa in February following his last China expedition.

But we were warned not to raise our hopes.

"China will continue to help Zimbabwe in its own way, but it will not provide an economic rescue package or bailout largely because it's worried about the country's political risk associated with Mugabe's age and health concerns, as well as succession issues," a government official said after the trip.

As if to spite the Chinese, no sooner had Chinamasa returned than Mugabe declared he was not retiring anytime soon, claiming he still had unfinished business before stepping down.

And ahead of the July 31 general elections last year, Zanu PF provincial chairpersons were advised by the Communist Party during their visit to Beijing to address relevant issues facing the electorate and solve the problems dogging the economy. But if anything, the problems remain unsolved, if not worsening.

It would thus appear that government has refused to learn from China. While efforts aimed at raising funds to translate ZimAsset from rhetoric to action are most welcome, Chinamasa and company could be on another wild goose chase at taxpayers' expense.


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Source: AllAfrica


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