Corrupt cartels shouldn’t hold nation at ransom but be held to account!
By Tendai Ruben Mbofana
HARARE – It was really strange reading a report – whereby, Fossil Group, threatened to retrench over 2,000 workers – ostensibly, in response to its, and its proprietor Obey Chimuka’s recent placement on the US sanctions list, targeted at some individuals and companies in Zimbabwe.
As much as this move by the US will certainly somehow hamper the company’s operations – thereby, possibly hitting its bottom line quite hard – however, rushing to announcing the laying off of thousands from their jobs, as the first reaction, is quite disturbing.
This is a company being accused of engaging in nefarious underhand activities – as such, should the most logical reaction to this move by the US not have been cleaning up its operations – in order not only to regain trust, but also be removed from this sanctions list, thereby saving its employees’ jobs?
Why quickly opt for threatening to turn upside down the lives and livelihoods of over 2,000 people, plus their families – by pushing them into poverty and suffering?
Is this a plot to blackmail the US into rethinking and revisiting this decision?
In fact, could this not be a carefully crafted strategy designed at convincing Zimbabweans how these targeted restrictive measures were actually affecting the ordinary man, woman and child on the street?
Was this incomprehensible decision largely a political move intended to fit in snugly with the long-held government and ruling ZANU PF narrative of ‘economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe that have crippled the economy’?
This would be unsurprising for a company – whose owners are allegedly linked to the ruling elite, in this case President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa – whose dealings have for a long time being placed under the microscope, especially with the involvement of Kudakwashe Tagwirei, who is already sanctioned both by the US and UK.
I will not be repeating the numerous accusations of swindling taxpayers’ money – through what were termed ‘opaque business dealings’, in the process ‘benefiting from large government program contracts’, in which they failed ‘to account for billions of dollars’.
These entities were accused of skirting rules to convert government-backed securities (treasury bills) into scarce US dollars, used in buying shares in a platinum company – on top of unaccounted billions in the so-called ‘command agriculture’, amongst a whole host of others.
I, therefore, have a serious problem with those individuals and entities fingered in contributing to the mass suffering and impoverished of the people of Zimbabwe trying to play the victim, and going as far as holding the nation at ransom.
It just doesn’t cut it!
These companies have even gone a step further by sponsoring sporting clubs, revamping medical and sports facilities, and even making some token contributions to the welfare of a handful of ordinary Zimbabweans.
In all this, I am convinced, these are attempts at portraying themselves as being with the people – so as to cover up the far more serious accusations leveled against them, which are potentially causing more harm and damage to the nation – thereby, exceedingly outweighing any supposed ‘good’.
I am reminded of notorious Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar.
The man had become filthy rich – reportedly worth, in today’s value, over US$70 billion – from the manufacture and distribution of illicit drugs, in the 1980s and 90s, earning him the nickname, ‘King of Cocaine’.
In spite of his mega-billion dollar ‘industry’ ruining the lives of millions and millions of young people, who became addicted to these dangerous substances, as well as being linked to the killing of over 4,000 people – including, 200 judges, 1,000 police officers, journalists and government officials – he still tried to paint himself the victim.
His Medellin Cartel was said to ’employ’ some 750,000 people, and was involved in various ‘philanthropic’ work in remote and marginalized parts of Colombia – such as, building roads, power lines, soccer fields, and housing complexes for the homeless.
In so doing, he became a genius in manipulating the people of Colombia, especially the impoverished – by portraying himself as a victim of relentless persecution at the hands of those who were against his upliftment of their lives.
These poor people were not aware of the millions of lives and livelihoods he was wantonly and cruelly destroying – through flooding their communities with cocaine, and the ruthless murders – such that, there was never a shortage of those prepared to protect their ‘hero’.
In fact, today, there is a small village in Colombia still hosting a huge statue, erected in honor of the man responsible for the senseless deaths of millions.
This is exactly what we witness today in Zimbabwe.
Do those who feel that those companies placed on sanctions are being treated unfairly – as well as this move adversely affecting the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans – actually not understand the much greater destruction of the economy, through these devious deals, which are prejudicing the country billions of dollars?
Indeed, some workers may find themselves jobless – as a result of these sanctions on their companies – or those ‘benefiting’ from various sponsorship and government programs left high and dry.
However, as in the case of Escobar, the people of Zimbabwe need to look at the bigger picture.
If these corrupt cartels had not been running our economy into the ground, in the first place – through their well-documented dodgy dealings – our country would be far more developed, and the majority of Zimbabweans living in dignity.
In fact, we would have had no need of our livelihoods being intertwined with individuals and companies engaged in sordid activities for our survival.
It, therefore, goes without saying that, what we have here are not some innocent victims who deserve our sympathy – but, entities that need to be thoroughly investigated and brought to book.
Similarly, it is rather disingenuous and an utter disgrace watching in disbelief these entities opting to play the victim card – even going as far as threatening to retrench thousands of workers, and leaving their families to poverty.
Zimbabweans now need to do their own cost-benefit analysis – whereby, we honestly evaluate what the country truly stands to gain by associating with these entities – vis-à-vis what we are losing in the process, due to the billions allegedly siphoned out of our economy.
From where I stand, Zimbabwe is actually better off, and can prosper faster, without these individuals and entities.
Our country is bleeding profusely on account of these cartels and their shady dealings – contributing immensely to the indescribable suffering and poverty, under which millions of ordinary Zimbabweans have struggled for decades.
That is why I hardly feel any empathy, let alone sympathy, for those on these sanctions lists.
They can wallow there for all eternity, for all I care!
● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: email@example.com