The unfortunate statement by a government official that Bulawayo companies lose out on tenders for local projects because they are ignorant of the bidding process cannot go unchallenged.
Mike Dzimati, a director in the Local Government, Public Works and National Housing ministry, reportedly blamed locals for the fact that contracts to upgrade facilities for the forthcoming African Union Sports Council Region V Games scheduled for Bulawayo were given to companies from outside the region.
He said local companies did not understand the regulations of the tendering process, hence their failure to land lucractive contracts.
The simplistic and clearly patronising excuse immediately attracted the wrath of Provincial Affairs minister Eunice Sandi Moyo who was attending the same meeting with Dzimati.
She expressed her disappointment that such a senior government official would pander to obvious stereotypes that are never backed by any facts.
Sandi Moyo rightly pointed out that it was the responsibility of government officials like Dzimati to educate companies on tendering processes if they detected such gaps.
It is in the interest of the ministry that local companies have knowledge of its systems because of its mandate to provide services to all Zimbabweans regardless of background or geographical location.
Sandi Moyo and Sport, Arts and Culture minister Andrew Langa were confronted by the mess created by the skewed tendering process when they discovered that the majority of people employed at Luveve Stadium were from outside the area.
The contractors cannot claim that they could not attract and recruit manual labour from within Luveve considering the city’s high unemployment levels.
Infrastructure projects of such a nature have been rare in Zimbabwe over the past decade due to the economic meltdown and it is important that when they come locals are not sidelined. Excluding locals in economic projects and employment opportunities can lead to social upheavals.
Dzimati and his ministry should take Sandi Moyo’s advice seriously to avoid similar mistakes in future.
Issues of employment and economic opportunities are very emotive in this part of the country and government officials need to choose their words carefully when they speak about them in public lest they touch a raw nerve.