Watch it on ZABG bailout

HARARE - As reported in this paper today, the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (Nieeb)’s planned investment into the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG) raises a potential stinker in many ways.

For the simple reason that its fund was primarily set up to hold cash from the indigenisation drive for reinvestment in infrastructural and other developmental projects countrywide, questions linger on how the board can justify its investment in a private sector lender unless it is being transformed into a State mining bank.

On its own, ZABG is an institution owned by Mines minister Obert Mpofu — after his $23 million investment through family business Trebor and Khays (Private) Limited last year — and a figure presiding over a sector that has largely “sustained or funded” the board so far.

This, therefore, raises potential problems for both the principal investor and President Robert Mugabe’s government over possible abuse of office, if not funds.

And to the extent that another public fund, and institution in the name of Innocent Chagonda’s National Social Security Authority took the rap for bailing out the now defunct ReNaissance Merchant Bank, does Mpofu and company, including Michael Nyambuya’s Nieeb, need that kind of publicity, and spotlight associated with this kind of deals or commercial transactions?

As it is, questions also abound about advocate Farai Mtamangira’s potential conflict of interest since he is ZABG chairperson and also sits on Nieeb’s board.

In these circumstances, Nyambuya’s team at the all-important fund — led by chief executive Wilson Gwatiringa — is expected to exercise better judgment over this issue because it has the potential to mire us all (as a nation) in unnecessary cash-for-influence scandals.

More importantly, the Nieeb must stick to its core mandate of advising the indigenisation process on empowerment strategies and, not least, administer the empowerment fund in terms of section 15 of the Indigenisation Act rather prudently.

While the stability of Zimbabwean banks cannot be overemphasised, one cannot see any national interest in this venture — unless the ultimate goal or outcome is clearly enunciated.

And frankly, we believe there is a better cause in leveraging, and harnessing those funds into rehabilitating our killer highways, especially the Harare-Beitbridge road.

While people know of Mpofu’s flagship businesses, including Khanondo Safaris and Maminza Transport, and we hold nothing against his pedigree, the jolly fellow is also urged to exercise extreme caution on this one. - Staff Writer

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