A Member of Parliament has said that some government ministers in Zimbabwe are so corrupt that if they shake hands with you, you have to check whether they have not stolen a finger.
The MP for Mabvuku, James Maridadi, who is also the former spokesman for former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said there were indeed some ministers who were very clean and hard working but “there are also ministers that are so corrupt that when they say good afternoon to you, you must actually check your watch to see if it is indeed noon because they might be lying or if they shake your hand, you must count the number of fingers that you are left with, in case, they have taken one finger away.”
Maridadi was talking about the gravity of corruption in the country during a debate on the motion on good governance sponsored by fellow Movement for Democratic Change legislator Willias Madzimure.
The debate has prompted government to announce new rules for the appointment of board members and chief executives officers for state enterprises but MPs argue that the executive cannot police itself and want parliament to play an oversight role.
Maridadi who has worked for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, both state enterprises currently entangled in wrangles over salaries paid to top management or consultants, said he knew how the game was played.
State enterprises were feeding troughs for ministers.
“I have worked for a parastatal Mr. Speaker, as a general manager and I will tell you what happens in parastatals. A minister wants to visit Hwange Power Station, he then phones the CEO to inform him of the visit. The minister draws fuel from the parastatal and yet we know very well that if he is visiting out of Harare, he also draws fuel from his ministry. Therefore, the minister will end up drawing fuel twice for the same trip and he will not even drive but will fly at the expense of the ministry which becomes triple dipping. We know it because we have worked for parastatals and the ministers know that they do it. The ministers that are notorious for that, when this debate comes back we will be naming them because it is not going to help anybody by telling ministers what to do,” he said.
MR. MARIDADI: Thank you Mr. Speaker, for recognising me. Mr. Speaker, firstly I want to say it is natural that when you talk about corruption, people gravitate towards high or obscene salaries, boards that have not been constituted properly and so on. I want to say these are only symptoms of the virus. I want to locate the problem of corruption and corporate governance in their actual areas.
The first one is parastatals. The founding legal framework of parastatals, an administrative architecture of the organisation is where the problem is. Parastatals are modeled in such a way that they become feeding trusts for Government Ministers. Why is it that when a Government Minister is appointed, the first thing he does is to dissolve a board of a parastatal and fill it with people from his home area or people that he went to school with? I will give you examples.
Why is it that there are individuals in society who always follow Ministers wherever they go? You find a person was a board member of a bank and is appointed Chairman. The bank is not doing very well and it is immersed in corruption. He is appointed a board member for the Cricket Union of Zimbabwe. He is fired for corruption but the Minister still has the audacity to pick such a person and make him Board Chairman of a national enterprise like Air Zimbabwe, where again they are fingered in corruption.
They have been fired from that board. It would not be surprising that the Minister who appointed that person at Air Zimbabwe will go back to that person and appoint him to head yet another parastatal because it is this person who then feeds into the Minister and then corruption continues like that.
There is also the problem of leadership Mr. Speaker. Zimbabwe has many leaders, but what we need is leadership and there is a difference between leaders and leadership. I was reading the newspaper today, talking about the Premier Service Medical Aid Society. We have a problem with the obscene salary of the Chief Executive. The Minister, in his wisdom, or as I see it, obvious lack of sanity; appoints a consultant who is going to be getting US$1 million every month. We are battling with a salary of US$330 000 for an individual, but the Minister sees it fit to appoint a consultant that must be paid US$1 million every month.
Where is that money going to come from? Mr. Speaker, I have no problem with a person earning US$1 million a month but a person’s income is a function of that organisation’s revenue. Those two must be able to stick to each other. You cannot have an organisation like ZBC, which is US$47 million in the red paying a Chief Executive US$40 000 when the least paid person in that organisation, who is supposed to take home US$300.00, is not paid for seven months. How does that happen?
When you look at it, the Minister who was responsible for that ministry in the past five years has not made a single comment as to what happened at ZBC. This raises our eyebrows, Mr. Speaker Sir. He has not made a single comment. I will talk passionately about ZBC because I came from there. There are people at ZBC today who were fired for incompetence in 2005 and were reappointed to ZBC and fired again for incompetence.
We went to ZBC as a Portfolio Committee and we saw those people at ZBC. The question is; what skill do you have that you cannot be able to part with ZBC? What level of skill? If you look at that person’s CV, their highest qualification is seven points at A’ Level. No more and no less. What is it that they are bringing to ZBC so much that a Minister finds himself so poorly if he does not appoint this person at ZBC? That is where corruption starts.
Mr. Speaker, talking about ZESA, it is technically insolvent as an organisation. We found our pigeon holes full of end of year results for organisations, for parastatals. If you go through their income statements, there is not a single parastatal which is not in the red. There is not a single parastatal which is not statistically solvent. ZESA is technically insolvent and this is how it happened.
ZESA has a debt of US130 million and yet ZESA is owed US$800 million by customers. They are failing to recover that money. I went to ZESA and they said, they have been given a directive by the Ministry that they must put prepaid meters and a person who has had a prepaid meter installed probably owe the parastatal US$2 000 in unpaid bills. What they do is that you get a prepaid metre and the arrangement is that 20% of whatever electricity you buy must go towards paying off your debt.
If you look at someone who buys electricity for US$5 or US$10, 20% of that is US$1. It will take that person 400 months to pay off their debt of US$2 000. When does that happen?
The problem we have with parastatals is that there is too much Government interference on running parastatals and Ministers do that deliberately because they want to feed off the parastatals. If you look at ZESA’s debt analysis, the names that you see there are names of Ministers. Some of them owe US$200 000, US$150 000 or US$75 000, which they do not pay.
Recently, we had a case of one Minister who had a very nasty divorce case in the high court and the wife says, besides everything else he does not pay utility bills. In other words, it means that he does not pay for the water and the electricity that he uses.
The other problem Mr. Speaker, which was raised by the previous speaker is the issue of Ministers who get vehicles – A Mercedes Benz and an off road vehicle. Five years later, the Ministers are supposed to buy these vehicles at book value. I have no qualms with that because it is a condition of employment. My problem is that at the end of those five years, if you look at that vehicle, it has only been used for 20 000km.
What the Ministers then do is that, they go to CMED and hire vehicles at the expense of the Ministry. In the mean time, he parks his allocated vehicle at home and he uses the CMED vehicle so that, come five years he is able to buy that vehicle with only 20 000km at US$5000 and yet the market value of that same vehicle is US$65 000.
Mr. Speaker, charity begins at home. I want to come back to Parliament. We were elected by the people to have an oversight role on Government but I think our charity must begin in the precincts of Parliament, Mr. Speaker. The head of Secretariat, the Clerk of Parliament, and this is not a secret because we see it every day, drives a Mercedez Benz S350. If you walk across the road the S350 costs nothing less than 160,000 Euro.
The person who comes just below him drives a double cab bought at Willowvale for US$48,000. Why should there be such a disparity that the head of an institution is driving a Mercedez Benz S350 valued at 160,000 Euro and the deputy head of the same institution is driving a vehicle that is worth only US$40,000. That disparity is talking corruption – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, Hear] –
Mr. Speaker, if you then go to their salaries, I will not be surprised if I discover that the head of Secretariat of the institution…
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Order hon. member, I remember very well that last week, Mr. Speaker did say the House cannot debate the Clerk of Parliament because he is unable to defend himself – [HON MEMBERS: Inaudible Interjections] –
MR. MARIDADI: On a point of order Mr. Speaker. I think as a representative of the people, elected by the people we have already debated salaries of other people such as Cuthbert Dube and he has not been able to defend himself. I will continue to talk about the salary of anybody for as long as I am in this House. If the head of Secretariat of Parliament wants to defend himself, we will invite him to a Portfolio Committee and he can defend himself. For as long as we are in this House and as long as we are representatives of the people, we will not be gagged by Orders of this House. You cannot gag us because when I go back to my constituency, people want to know what I have been debating Mr. Speaker. So, I will continue – [HON MEMBERS:Inaudible Interjections] –
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Order, order in the House. A member cannot challenge a ruling by the Speaker. This ruling was made last week, so it has to stand and be respected. You may continue.
MR. MARIDADI: Mr. Speaker, I withdraw that debate on the head of the Secretariat of this House but I will continue to debate salaries of other people that are not head of Secretariat of this House, suffice to say that they are also unable to defend themselves, but I will debate it all the same.
Mr. Speaker, the State has three arms which are the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive. The Judiciary must be independent and yet our independence is compromised because we look to the Executive for the funding of this House. It is up to the Minister to say when Members of Parliament are going to get their vehicles. Ministers and Judges get their vehicles 48hrs upon appointment. Why should it take Members of Parliament 365 days to get their vehicles?
Mr. Speaker, the head of this House – and I will give comparisons with Government. When the new Cabinet was appointed, the President did not get a new vehicle because he already had one. When the head of this institution was appointed, he also got his vehicle within 48 hrs. The vehicle that was given to the head of this House is worth 160,000 Euro and yet Members of Parliament cannot even get coupons to come to this House – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear] –
Mr. Speaker, I want to proffer solutions to these problems. The first thing, Ministers or Ministries should not be in charge of parastatals. We must go back to the 1980 model where there was a Parastatals Commission which was headed by an independent board and parastatals should not report to Ministries.
I guarantee you Mr. Speaker, if parastatals stop reporting to Ministries, Ministers will be very poor and they will start behaving like Members of Parliament. Why is it that Zimbabwe is one of the very few countries in the world which does not have an Ombudsman’s office?
I will read the duties of an Ombudsman with your indulgence. “An Ombudsman or Public Advocate as he is called in other countries, is usually appointed, and please take note, by either Government or by Parliament”. What it means is that World Best Practice is such that Parliament or Government will appoint an Ombudsman.
I am putting it to this House that this Parliament should be given the powers to appoint an Ombudsman who is going to be independent. If we leave that to Government, the Minister responsible for that appointment will appoint either his wife’s sister or his brother’s girlfriend’s nephew and the Ombudsman will be compromised even before they come to the office. If that happens and if parastatals are weaned from Government, it means Ministers no longer have feeding troughs. Ministers will then have to rely on their salaries like everybody else and rely on the benefits that they get from Government.
I have worked for a parastatal Mr. Speaker, as a General Manager and I will tell you what happens in parastatals. A Minister wants to visit Hwange Power Station, he then phones the CEO to inform him of the visit. The Minister draws fuel from the parastatal and yet we know very well that if he is visiting out of Harare, he also draws fuel from his Ministry. Therefore, the Minister will end up drawing fuel twice for the same trip and he will not even drive but will fly at the expense of the Ministry which becomes triple dipping. We know it because we have worked for parastatals and the Ministers know that they do it. The Ministers that are notorious for that, when this debate comes back we will be naming them because it is not going to help anybody by telling Ministers what to do.
There are Ministers that are very clear, not corrupt and hard working and there are also Ministers that are so corrupt that when they say good afternoon to you, you must actually check your watch to see if it is indeed noon because they might be lying or if they shake your hand, you must count the number of fingers that you are left with, in case, they have taken one finger away. Mr. Speaker, in other countries where they have boards, they have a pool of people up to 100 or 200 people, and the names are put in a hat. If a Minister wants to appoint a board, all they do is go to that pool and look at the appropriate qualifications and appoint those people.
Like what Hon. Chinotimba said, that you will not get a Minister from Buhera appointing the whole board from Buhera. It will not happen. We cannot have a Minister because he grew up in Gwabalanda, appointing everybody from that area in that board also coming from Gwabalanda. When you get into that board, everyone there is speaking Ndebele. If you do not speak Ndebele, you then feel out of place.
If Hon. Mutseyami here is appointed a Minister, all board members at the parastatal are from Musikavanhu, veshe antu ndevekwaMusikavanhu – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections] – So Mr. Speaker, for your indulgence, thank you. I rest my case. Thank you.