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“do you think you can fight Billy Rautenbach and win?”: How State Capture Ruins Zimbabwe

One major theme of Zimbabwe’s failure to rise above being a promising nation has been the enduring weakness of her institutions and the corresponding centrality and significance of personality cults to everything that happens.

Personality cults are described as a system in which the political legitimacy of an organization is the function of the leader. Often such leaders are able to control a group of people through the sheer force of their personality.

Locally this has filtered down to all levels of politics and governance where leaders or their words are of greater importance than the legally recognised and constitutionally mandated institutions. In turn, this has bred corruption.

Currently, it’s much better to have contacts of a person than it is to deal with an institution.

Being connected with a police officer is much better than simply dealing with the police station through the prescribed channels.

One case that has recently exemplified the eroded role of institutions against the corruption breeding system of being connected has been the Aspindale 48 and 49 land scandal involving a housing cooperative and businessman Billy Rautenbach.

The housing cooperative, Joshua Nkomo Housing Cooperative, was given an offer letter by the government sometime around the 2000s.

The residents proceeded to build houses in the area adjacent to Kambuzuma.

After the 2017 putsch which saw Kasukuwere being booted out a new Local Government Minister in July Moyo came in and revoked the offer letter.

At the same time, Rautenbach popped out with documents purporting to be the owner of the land working allegedly in cahoots with Harare State Minister Oliver Chidawu and July Moyo.

The residents found themselves under siege with constant running battles with rogue police units which came and beat anyone who was resisting the Rautenbach offer of buying stands at US$85 per square metre.

In a normal country, this would be a case that could be reported to and investigated by the police or the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC).

The Ministry of Lands, responsible for allocation of land could also be approached and deal with the matter amicably by shedding light on who owned the land.

None of this worked in the situation, why?

Because all those institutions and their constitutionally mandated duties cannot stand against the mighty power of personalities. They could not bring a solution to the matter.

They could not square up against Rautenbach and whoever backed him politically.

The people of Aspindale 48 and 49 tried all the legal channels and faced resistance and downright persecutions.

Currently, about 6 of their cooperative leaders are under a variety of court orders barring them from addressing public gatherings. Some of them are nursing broken legs and swollen buttocks.

Since Joshua Nkomo Housing Cooperative is a creation of ZANU PF functionaries and members, they tried to seek assistance from their leaders and they were told that they could not fight Rautenbach, “because he helps the party”.

ZANU PF member and lawyer Paul Mangwana was engaged to deal with the case but dismissed it allegedly by saying, “do you think you can fight Billy Rautenbach and win”.

Desperate to save their houses the residents then resorted for Temba Mliswa, the outspoken former ZANU PF member and now independent Norton legislator who has been on a crusade against land barons.

Mliswa is not an institution but is merely a well-connected MP.

Where ZACC, Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Lands, Harare State Minister and other associated offices mandated to deal with the matter had failed the people of Aspindale found respite in an individual with connections!!

Mliswa in three months managed to deal with the Aspindale case which has led to the booting out of Rautenbach and an assurance from President Mnangagwa to the people of Aspindale that they will not be removed.

-Open Parly

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