Editorial Comment: Most freebies come with strings attached

Editorial Comment

IN times of hardships and misfortune, it is not only rude, but unwise and unAfrican not to show gratitude to those that come to your assistance. It is from this standpoint that we would like to join our government in thanking the Chinese people for offering to rehabilitate, free of charge, all the roads that were damaged in Manicaland province’s Chimanimani district by the floods caused by Cyclone Idai in mid-March.

In Africa, we also know that it is very rare that after someone assists you in a very big way, you just say thanks. Almost always one is obliged and feels duty-bound to return the kind gesture in one way or another. This is our nature and has become a culture across most of the continent. And many people who give assistance are equally aware of this opportunity for them to gain something from their “act of kindness”, hence many are more than happy and ready to lend a hand.

It is from this background that we would wish to throw in a little word of caution; carry out due diligence, so to speak, over these seemingly harmless offers of assistance. Millions of dollars have so far been given and pledged to assist our brothers and sisters who were left in dire need following the natural disaster, and it is our considered view that if our government chose to be prudent, it needs to be a little cautious when offered “free assistance” of such grand proportion.

We firmly stand by our considered view that in this world, there is hardly free lunch. This country is world-renowned not only for its mineral resource richness, but also for its fertile land and wildlife abundance. All these can obviously act as incentives for other nations to simply feel “duty bound” to give a helping hand to a latently rich nation in distress. It would not be surprising if, from henceforth, we see our government favouring or even blatantly flouting tender procedures just to favour its all-weather friends who shower them with “free assistance” in their time of need. We say so because we have already witnessed instances when these all-weather friends establish companies without implementing such important things as environmental impact assessments.

Informed by the fact that our neighbours, Mozambique, had worse misfortune following the cyclone, we become curious when it does not receive more free grand offers of assistance than we do. Assistance to that country has largely been humanitarian.

And just to throw the cat among the pigeons, speculative reports abound that the massive landslides that occurred in Chimanimani and Chipinge highlands exposed very rich gold veins that local villagers have been scratching on the surface for many years. Gravel for the road rehabilitation will obviously be sourced from these known gold-rich mountains. May we be forgiven if we appear to be insinuating something sinister; we are merely performing our oversight role, as expected of the Fourth Estate. Food for thought.