Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe has secretly awarded a lucrative $120 million telecommunications upgrade contract to Huawei, the Chinese Red Army firm recently booted out of the United States for installing spying gear in its phones and other gadgets.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa presented the agreement to parliament for approval only on Tuesday, two months after MPs were due to have had sight of it.
Opposition MP and former minister of ICT Nelson Chamisa condemned the government for failing to inform parliament about the agreement signed on December 1 2015 by Chinamasa and officials from China Export Import Bank which is providing $98 million, 85 percent of the $116 million project cost.
“Government must learn to follow the Constitution. Section 300 (3) is very clear. We are supposed to have been favoured with the gazzetting of the terms exactly 60 days after the signing of the agreement. That was not done and that leaves MPs in a very invidious position because we come here without the full understanding and knowledge of the terms, dictates, parameters and province of the loan. It makes life difficult for us because what we want to do in our exercising of the oversight role is to know what to approve and what not to approve. So that is a worrisome element. Government takes Parliament for granted, and also takes Parliamentarians for granted by choosing to ignore the Constitution. So the appeal is, let the Constitution be respected. Let all Ministers be guided by the statutes and the laws of our country,” Chamisa said.
He added: “You would find that most the loans that have been approved in terms of Section 300 (4) (a) are supposed to come to Parliament at least twice a year to give us an update on how the loans are performing. You would find that most of the loans are not coming here. What comes here is the noise of consumption of those loans by certain actors. What comes here is the noise of abuse and raiding of coffers in the parastatals and that is a worrisome development. Inasmuch as I would want to support the expanding and capitalisation of TelOne, there are challenges we have and we have confront them.”
Chamisa said government had to deal with the capacity of TelOne, which has been crippled by failure by the state to pay its debts.
“Government departments owe TelOne to the tune of $80 million, $40 million by Government departments within government then $40 million by parastatals or State enterprises, so there is a debt there. Government departments are in the habit of just using the phone as if they are expending confetti and no, we cannot just come and approve when there is no capacity within Government to exercise discipline. Even if we are going to put this loan, we are simply going to abuse the loan because Government is in the habit of abusing the resources that they have. They are refusing to pay their debts, and what they have used and that is a problem Hon Speaker Sir. There is $80 million and the loan that he requires is $98 million; linked with that we have $350 million – the legacy debt on the books of TelOne. So now what we are now having is a debt upon debt. Now why should we continue to pile debt upon debt when there is no understanding of how we are going to resuscitate this ailing institution? It does not make sense. You cannot be on a frolic of borrowing. You cannot become a professional borrower, particularly when you are borrowing- and that is what we have become. We have developed an industry of borrowing,” Chamisa said.
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