The controversy surrounding the building of the multi-million dollar so-called Zimbabwe Defence College outside Harare deepened this week, after the chairperson of the State Procurement Board admitted that strict tender procedures were ignored following a directive from Robert Mugabe.
The college, considered by many to be nothing more than a 'huge spy centre', is being built by a Chinese company, courtesy of a controversial US$100 million loan from China, which is expected to be paid off using proceeds from the murky diamond mining operations controlled by senior ZANU PF chefs.
On Monday Charles Kuwaza, the Executive Chairperson of the State Procurement Board, told the parliamentary portfolio committee on Finance, Budget, Investment and Promotion that they were instructed to override their own procedures in giving the Chinese the tender to construct the college.
Responding to a question from Paddy Zhanda, the chairperson of the committee, Kuwaza said: "We are not involved in the tender of that project and it was a directive from the President's office as you know that we follow the government's "Look East Policy" so we just followed instructions without going to tender."
Zhanda had wanted to know why the Chinese were supplying everything, including materials that can be sourced locally like wheelbarrows and labour. "I do not have much to say. It is the instruction from the President and we are answerable to him," is all Kuwaza could say in response.
Aside from criticism that construction of a defence college for a cash strapped economy like Zimbabwe was not a priority Finance Minister Tendai Biti has previously told Parliament that that the terms of the deal were 'criminal.' This is despite the fact that he appended his signature to the deal in March last year.
The MDC-T Secretary General however then defended his role in the fiasco claiming: "The agreements were presented before me in the presence of the Vice Premier, and I didn't want to embarrass Zimbabwe and embarrass the Vice Premier of China. I think China is capable of assisting Zimbabwe."