Friday, March 22, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) Kasukuwere paying price for silence

Kasukuwere paying price for silence
21/03/2013 00:00:00
by Mai Jukwa

I OFTEN find myself pulling my hair out in frustration when I see people failing to respond to situations. An example is the ever so docile Kasukuwere who seems content to eat food and carry on business as usual whilst a determined opponent drags his name and reputation in the mud.

At this point it is now public knowledge that Dr. Gideon Gono is pulling no punches in his effort to destroy the youthful minister but Kasukuwere does nothing. He does absolutely nothing! What is most frustrating is that there is a great deal to say in response to the Governors provocations. Having analysed the facts of the case over the past few weeks this is what I would say if I were Kasukuwere. I would write a letter to Zimbabwe.

Dear Zimbabwe,

Over the past few weeks there has been a lot that has been written about my conduct as Minister in charge of Indigenisation. Some of the information you have read is true but a great amount of this has been a mix of innuendo and mischievous gossip.

It is important that Zimbabweans have a clear understanding of what we are trying to achieve through the Indigenisation programme. However, it is equally important that they have confidence in the process. The question on the minds of many Zimbabweans is if this programme benefits all Zimbabweans or whether it is a corrupt scheme merely to line the pockets of Minister Kasukuwere as some have alleged.

A quick background would be helpful. The Indigenisation programme is not a personal project born of my imagination. It is government policy set into law by the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act. The law directs companies with a capitalisation above a set threshold to ensure that indigenous Zimbabweans own 51% of their shares.

The Act does not discriminate between mining, banking or telecoms. It simply states that if a company’s capitalisation crosses the set threshold then it is obliged to comply with this regulation. My role as Minister is to ensure that all affected companies’ come into compliance. This is through assisting these companies by extending deadlines in exceptional circumstances or offering state support in terms of guaranteeing financing in those cases where there is no local capital to absorb available shares.

As you can clearly see, I do not have the legal power to give special treatment or exemptions to particular industries, as the law does not have scope for any such ministerial discretion. It is not the case that Kasukuwere can simply allow the banks to carry on business as usual whilst demanding compliance from the mining and telecoms sector. If I adopted this position we would quickly find ourselves in court, as this would be in violation of the law and would be vigorously challenged by those entities that have been forced to indigenise.

Herein lies a great measure of the confusion surrounding media reports on the matter. Of particular interest to the public has been the seeming rift with Dr. Gideon Gono who has offered an alternative model to the current Indigenisation drive and has publicly disagreed with my approach in effecting the Indigenisation Act.

Whilst I hold the governor in very high regard and welcome his input and opinion, my position on the matter has always been that the final decision on policy implementation rests with my Ministry. This position will not change until such a time as I am removed from government or deployed to a different arena of service. Decisions about Indigenisation can only be made within the Ministry charged with that duty. They cannot be micromanaged by unauthorised external agencies. There are only three bodies to which I am obliged to give an account; these are Cabinet, Parliament and the office of the President.

If it were the case that the “one-size-fits-all” model is inadequate, as Dr. Gono suggests, then the best approach would be to table such a motion in parliament (if one is an elected official) and request an amendment to the legislation as it currently stands. If Parliament shares the same view as the Governor then the law would be amended and as Minister I would immediately be empowered to give special favours to the banks or whichever industry exempted by the amendment. As it stands I just do not have the power to do so and am bound by the law to implement the policy indiscriminately.

It is now a matter of public record that the Governor has summoned a number of institutions that have been indigenised and demanded access to documents detailing the transactions. By chance these documents have the next morning found themselves leaked to the Daily News. Naturally as a human being I resent the feeling of being undermined but in governance one learns to lay aside emotion and focus on policy.

I mention the issue of these documents because it lays out the foundation of what is now called the NIEEBgate supposed scandal.

The Governor went on to request that my Ministry surrender all documents related to indigenisation to his office for supervision. I objected to this purely on the grounds of principal. The RBZ has no legal mandate to scrutinise the activities of the Ministry. It is quite similar to Dr. Gono having demanded that the Ministry of Health surrender their internal documentation for review by his office. No self-respecting Minister would accept such an unwarranted intrusion by an unauthorised party. Not even a company executive would accept that from another manager.

Many in the media have speculated that I rejected these intrusions because there was a trove of ghastly secrets to hide. This is nonsense. My view was that the Governor was now being nuisance and behaving in quite a disruptive and adolescent manner both in public and in private and I was unwilling to continue entertaining his behavior.

After this much was communicated to the RBZ we were quite surprised when the Anti-Corruption Commission came knocking on our doors demanding the very documents that had been requested the day before. We made it clear that we believed they were acting as a proxy and in violation of their mandate. As such it was we would not co-operate unless they obtained a warrant. To obtain any such warrant from the courts they would need to show probable cause, something we knew they could not show given that they were simply operating as a proxy and without any just cause to harass us.

They went to the courts and failed to show probable cause and were slapped down by the Magistrates court. What then happened is unprecedented. The Anti-Corruption Commission proceeded to approach a High Court Justice without advising the court that that a similar application had been rejected by a lower court. Lawyers will appreciate how extraordinarily unlawful that action was. We immediately challenged that warrant. Some parts of the media have conveniently excluded the details of what happened in court that day. The commission was not blocked from investigating us but admitted of their own accord that they had acted unlawfully and that the warrant they were trying to use was fraudulent. We did not even have to argue our case, they admitted this of their own volition and dropped their case.

If the commission is operating of its own accord then we are more than ready to embrace and assist them in their investigations. Our concern was simply that it was likely not a coincidence that they came and demanded documents that Dr. Gono had demanded and been denied access to.

In addition to that, our concerns have been heightened in recent days by revelations that the commission is being paid holiday allowances to the tune of hundreds of thousands and also receiving houses are cars worth over six million dollars from the Reserve Bank. In our view, this unhealthy relationship raises serious questions about conflict of interests and the independence of the commission. It also lends credence to our initial concerns about their involvement. The commissions empowering Act of 2004 states quite clearly that their funding must only come from Parliament. No other government official is allowed to give money, cars or houses to senior officials of the commission.

However, we are very much willing to work with the Anti-Corruption Commission in a transparent and accountable manner. This begins with them writing to us, raising their concerns and explaining which documents they require and for what purpose they require those documents. If we are satisfied that these concerns are legitimate and not merely a ruse to acquire documents for an unauthorised third-party then we will gladly surrender this information.

Yours sincerely,

Minister Kasukuwere

Amai Jukwa is a loving mother of three. She respects Robert Mugabe, is amused by Tsvangirai and feels sorry for Mutambara. She plays on Facebook and Twitter

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