NOCZIM: The chickens have come home to roost

IN my view, the fuel problems being experienced in some parts of Zimbabwe are due to what I would call 50 -50, meaning 50 percent NOCZIM’s management fault and 50 percent politicians’ or government’s fault.

We all know that, in life we all have to face the consequences of our mistakes or bad deeds at some stage, hence the proverb, ‘the chickens have come home to roost’ – after scratching around in the yard! That is what is happening at NOCZIM. Zanu-pf knew very well that NOCZIM was a ticking time bomb due to what happened before the coalition government and handed it over to the MDC as one of their responsibilities.

NOCZIM’s alleged corruption and gross mismanagement is well documented. Despite corruption allegations and a few investigations resulting in yet fewer prosecutions, it’s business as usual at NOCZIM. A writer to the Zimbabwean was prompted to plead for action saying: "Thanks for a very informative and in-depth paper. I would like you to investigate and expose corruption, nepotism and looting at NOCZIM" (19/05/10).

In the past, we learnt that an estimated 250 million litres of fuel, mostly diesel was being diverted by racketeers to illegal selling points since 2000. The fuel sold at inflated prices was going mostly to transport operators including owners of commuter omnibuses in 200 litre drums. Last year NOCZIM chefs awarded themselves hefty exit packages including company vehicles at no charge, fuel allowance of an average 700 litres per month for one year, an annual bonus, pension, funeral allowance equivalent to six months’ salary and a relocation allowance of six months’ salary. It was Christmas come early at NOCZIM.

In fact Zanu-pf succeeded in fermenting friction between the two MDC Ministries (Finance and Energy) over NOCZIM’s fuel shortages at a time when the country is being reluctantly dragged through an electioneering mode. MDC needs to always make risk assessments before accepting certain ministerial responsibilities as they can fall victim to blackmail as appears in this case.

The only problem is that industry and commerce as well as innocent members of the public have to pay for other people’s blunders through unbudgeted-for costs such as fuel price increases, fare rises, loss of jobs and an uncertain future. Businesses are forced to re-organise their production and work systems including making some employees redundant due to the business interruption caused by a man-made disaster. It’s very unfair that, because some managers have failed to work efficiently, large parts of the country have to suffer.

Here in the UK, they don’t allow for that. Someone would be made to take responsibility. Last month the Transport Secretary (Minister) for Scotland had to resign because of snow which disrupted travel as temperatures plummeted to -25 degrees centigrade in some parts of Scotland. For the reader in Zimbabwe, this may sound odd, but the facts are that when it snows here, roads have to be sprayed with salt and grit (sand) to make it safe to drive on snowy and icy roads.

However, salt and grit have proved ineffective at treating roads when temperatures plunge below -10 degrees centigrade. Government is supposed to provide the salt and grit as well as vehicles which spread it on the icy roads. In the case of Zimbabwe’s NOCZIM, the problem is that of dollars and cents – money.

 

As reported in the press, if diesel vanished during the week-ending January 20 because of a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) garnishee order of US35 million for unpaid taxes, then it was management’s fault because they should have foreseen it coming and provided for the possible disruption to fuel supply in the country. They should have made long term deals for the payment of the ZIMRA tax shortfall e.g. through some bank products or facilities without risking cuts in the arteries of the economy. The NOCZIM board of directors, if any, should have strategic plans in place and the role of management is to steer the company in the right direction like captains of ships do on high seas.

Similarly, reports that Zimbabwe is failing to unlock an estimated 15 million litres of fuel stuck in the pipeline between Beira and Feruka as well as 11 million litres of a ‘cocktail’ stuck between Feruka and Msasa (Newsday, 20/01/11) belonging to private sector players is very embarrassing. It is like the Shona saying which goes like this: ‘ kufa nenyota iwo makumbo ari mumvura’ (literally means, dying of thirst when your feet are in water! Not managing your resources efficiently can be fatal.)

It is very embarrassing for Zimbabwe to be having a fuel shortage in this day and age because, with all its diamonds we hear about, how can the country fail to have funds to import fuel and pump it into the pipeline from Beira so that the product comes out at the other end? I just can’t believe that is happening in Zimbabwe.

If Zimbabwe has idle storage capacity in Southerton and Msasa in Harare as well as in Gweru why are the tanks empty? If Zimbabwe has the ability to supply Zambia, Malawi, northern parts of Botswana and southern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo why is it failing to supply southern parts of Zimbabwe resulting in price increases throughout the country? Is there sabotage somewhere in the system?

There is no point in blaming the Minister of Finance for the garnishee order because public revenue is needed to pay civil servants salaries apart from other essential services. As Tendai Biti was recently quoted as saying, "we can only eat what we have killed" (thezimbabwemail, 20/01/11). Those are very wise words.

For God’s sake, let’s get our act together and get things moving. We have been a laughing stock of the world for a long time. We should try and make a difference. Our pride is at stake. So are people’s livelihoods. Sort it out yesterday.

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri is a London based political analyst and regular columnist for The Zimbabwe Mai, he can be contatcted at zimanalysis2009@gmail.com