By Jameson Dapi | A few days ago, we woke up to lies to the effect that Chiefs in the Mhondoro-Ngezi, Chegutu and Zvimba area were conniving with a local platinum miner to disempower their communities by amending a deed of trust that gave birth to the country’s first ever and most successful community share-ownership trust.
There is really no prize for guessing as to what the motives of those behind the lies could be in the sense that the trustees of the Mhondoro-Ngezi, Chegutu and Zvimba Community Share Ownership Trust (MNCZCST) had, a few weeks earlier, authorised an evaluation of the performance of the Trust vis-à-vis the objectives that it was set out to achieve.
Under normal circumstances, such an exercise should have been applauded by all the right-thinking citizens of this country as something refreshing that is in keeping with international best practices. Why not when the evaluation is seeking to bring about accountability and transparency in the way the MNCZCST has been operating since its establishment by Zimplats more than a decade ago?
After all, a whooping US$10 million in shareholder funds was donated by Zimplats in the year 2010 towards the empowerment of communities in Mhondoro-Ngezi, Chegutu and Zvimba, through various projects that are meant to fight poverty and ensuring that no-one is left behind in the country’s developmental agenda.
But Lo and Behold! The evaluation has caused sparks to fly in certain quarters, where there is intense lobbying by a known businessman who operates in the area who is using proxies to spread lies in a desperate bid to halt the evaluation in order to save his skin. In the process, the truth is being sacrificed at the altar of self-expedience.
A lie has lately been concocted to the effect that Chiefs in Mhondoro-Ngezi, Zvimba and Chegutu are being bribed by the platinum miner in order to annul the MNCZCST deed and disempower their communities, when this is not the case. What is nauseating about this is that the local Chiefs are being accused of all sorts of unsavoury things for doing the right thing, which is to demand an evaluation of the Trust’s performance. What is also painful about this is that as these proxies are going about doing their bidding for their paymaster whose ancestors had a history of oppressing and exploiting black people, the hired guns are unashamedly demeaning our paragons of virtue, the Chiefs, when they have done nothing wrong except for shining the light in dark corners.
The culprit and those that blindly do his bidding need to be warned that this is not Rhodesia anymore where blacks were at the beck and call of their colonial masters. The sooner the businessman sobers up from his colonial hangover, the better because such warped thinking should have no place in an independent country, like ours, where Chiefs’ traditional roles and powers have been restored so that they are capable of making sound decisions, which are in the best interest of their people.
What this businessman should also know is that lies have short legs, which cannot run a marathon. As much as lies can rush in-front of the truth, the truth shall eventually catch up with him. In the words of charismatic author, Dr Ikoghene Samuel Aashikpelokhai, “lies have no permanent hiding place”. Soon the jury would be out, which is why Frank Sonnenberg, who authored The Path to a Meaningful Life, made the important point that “people who do what’s right never fear the truth,” because they will always be vindicated in the fullness of time.
Without pre-emptying the evaluation of the Trust, reports doing the rounds are that the individual peddling the lies duped the same Chiefs and the communities he is now pretending to have compassion for by abusing part of the US$10 million, which was donated by Zimplats to the MNCZCST, as seed capital. While the communities did exceptionally well in using part of the seed capital in their various projects, they have been demanding answers as to how about US$3 million, which was invested in a local poultry project run by the businessman, was used. This is amid suspicions that the money could have been diverted to fund another project in which the Chiefs and the communities which were supposed to benefit from the investment had no control over. Word has it that the project now faces sequestration, which is why the businessman doesn’t want the truth to be told or come out.
Don’t they say that the guilty are afraid? While these are merely allegations at this stage, the kicking and screaming over the audit not only raises eyebrows but makes one suspect that someone, somewhere could be trying to hold back skeletons in their closets from tumbling out.
By their very nature, public funds cannot escape scrutiny, and it is important that stakeholders be apprised about how their monies were used and how it benefited the communities. No amount of attempting to divert attention should stop the Chiefs from doing what is right. One hopes that Zimplats and the Chiefs will not be intimidated from pushing through with the evaluation of the Trust because the motive behind the lies is very clear – that of smearing the whole exercise so that the platinum miner and the Chiefs could be forced to back-off in order to avoid any potential harm that the smear campaign could have on their brands and reputations.
In line with the Second Republic’s mantra of fighting corruption wherever it exists, there shouldn’t be anywhere to hide for those who are going to be found wanting. Anyone found to be on the wrong side of the law should be made to account for their actions and pay the price for it; more so given that the Second Republic has placed the fight against corruption at the top of its agenda.
Instead of throwing mud everywhere in attempts that seem to be meant at besmirching the evaluation exercise, why not wait for the professionals in the field to do their job and make their findings public? Should this Tomfoolery continue, no-one should cry foul when they’re exposed for exactly who they’re: Don’t say you were not warned!
Jameson Dapi is an economist and development finance expert. He writes here in his personal capacity. For views and comments, e-mail to [email protected]