A ZANU PF MP last week heckled Finance deputy minister Clemence Chiduwa, demanding that he explains to Parliament how much money the government had so far disbursed to assist vulnerable citizens facing hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
In April, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the government had set aside $18,2 billion to cushion industry and to cater for social grants to vulnerable citizens whose income were hit by the vagaries of COVID-19.
But almost seven months after announcing the bailout package, government still lacks transparency on how many people benefited from the fund and how they were identified.
MPs also said they did not know of anyone who have benefited from their constituencies.
Hurungwe North MP Ability Gandawa (Zanu PF) said: “We did not hear the Deputy Minister of Finance comment on the support on social safety nets they were going to put in place to support those in rural areas.”
In his response, Chiduwa said: “We also had cash transfers targeting the urban vulnerable and those who are in the peri-urban. Our target was to get around one million beneficiaries. I think as of now, we are around 210 000. These are some of the statistics and I can assure you that we are continuing to do the registrations.”
Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima in June told Parliament that government had assisted 210 000 vulnerable people, which means, government has not made other payments nearly four months later.
Mavima said the households were given $180 each, transferred to their mobile accounts. The figure has increased to $300 per individual.
A survey by NewsDay targeted at vendors showed that people do not even know about the COVID-19 assistance funds to support vulnerable people.
“I have never heard about such a fund and where I can access the assistance,” said Tichaona Musve, who sells wares in the central business district.
Naomi Sibanda, who sells bananas around the Avenues area said: “For me, $300 sounds too little. The government should increase the amount in order to motivate vulnerable people to go to the government offices to get their names registered for the assistance.”
Harare East MP Tendai Biti (MDC Alliance) said while government has claimed that it disbursed $18,2 billion in fiscal interventions, as an urban MP, he had not come across anyone that benefited.
“In papers that were filed before the courts, the ministry of (Labour and) Social Welfare confesses that you (Finance ministry) have only disbursed $90 million to the relevant ministry,” Biti said.
In May, Mavima said government had promised to disburse $8 billion to assist vulnerable people.
MPs demanded that the two ministers should bring detailed breakdowns of the people assisted and how much was disbursed to avoid the confusion.