By Takura Zhangazha
IT may sound odd to many, but Zimbabwe has “big business”.
That is big companies that make significant profits on a yearly basis.
Even in such an assumedly “hostile” environment, some of their end-of-year profit figures are pretty high too, although we do not always get to know the actual figures or know the true goings on in some companies.
Hence the now infamous and very politicised catchphrase of the “missing $15 billion” from diamond mining by private and state controlled companies in eastern Zimbabwe.
This is not to say these companies deliberately seek to hide information.
On the contrary, a majority of them do ensure they follow requirements and publish their annual audited financial statements for public scrutiny. And also to indicate to their shareholders that they are viable and going concerns.
But beyond the regular or routine aspects to the operations of big business, there is also that relatively unknown interface between government and big business; or between a ruling party and big private capital.
An interesting development in the last year has been the direct relationship between government and Sakunda Holdings on the Command Agriculture programme.
The latter company is reported to have funded this government programme to the tune of at least $192 million according to media reports.
What it gets in return is not very clear but the fact that it has various other interests in fuel supply means government may be giving it some forms of tax or other concessions.
This is despite the fact that President Robert Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba, has argued that the proprietors of this company “are committed Zimbabweans bound by the love of their country”.
Whatever the facts of the matter, it would be the right thing for any similarly “committed” Zimbabwean to raise eyebrows and seek greater accountability from government on the quid pro quo of this relationship, especially in a year prior to the holding of elections.
What is, however, paramount is the need for Zimbabweans to understand that their national wealth cannot be the preserve of political parties and big business.
Whether this be by way of tenders, mining or other concessions, or electoral manipulation through material donations that are clearly a form of either vote buying or peddling for political influence in a ruling party or one that has potential to become one.
The challenge, therefore, goes beyond trying to make big business transparent about its role in elections and the electoral cycle.
Instead, it becomes how we rein it in before it contributes to a cartel of key decision makers about who can become a presidential candidate.
For now it appears to be mollycoddling the ruling establishment.
This is an abridged version of one of Takura Zhangazha’s blog posts on takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com. He writes here in his personal capacity.