via Bulawayo24 NEWS | Tsvangirai, Grace Mugabe implicated in RBZ debt 18 February 2015
FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe and opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai have been fingered as having substantially benefited from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)’s controversial $1,35 billion debt which the government wants to take over.
This came out yesterday as legislators debated the RBZ Debt Assumption Bill which sailed through the second reading stage amid protests by opposition legislators who demanded that the National Assembly conduct a secret vote in a bid to stop its passage.
Opposition MPs argued that the Bill should not be passed as top Zanu-PF and government officials, among them, First Lady, benefited from it. But Zanu-PF shot back saying Tsvangirai was also a beneficiary of the RBZ’s benevolence.
Opposition legislators wanted a secret vote on the bill, but Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda thwarted it, ruling that this could only be entertained at the third reading stage before the Bill could be passed into law.
MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese and Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa had proposed a secret vote saying Parliament could not be railroaded to pass the Bill without a clear explanation of how the money was used.
“The people are saying this is a diabolical Bill and they equate it to Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. They are saying the RBZ has assets and must pay its debts and if there are people who benefited they must be made to account,” Gonese said.
“People need to know who benefited at a time when the RBZ was behaving as Father Christmas and to solve the issue of conflict of interest, all MPs who benefited certainly must be precluded from taking part in the vote to pass this Bill,” he said.
Mudenda said: “I made a ruling that at this stage, it does not permit voting.”
Gonese said he had qualms with the way some of the debts were described because Zimbabweans could be paying for money used to buy homes for “small houses” or lobola for second wives of some individuals.
“For example, the Medallion Gold, Anglo American debt and other debts have no clear explanation as to how they were incurred,” he said.
“It is only described as a variance. How can Parliament be expected to condone such a debt? We need full disclosure and explanations and those people who benefited must be made to reduce the $1,35 billion debt.”
Gonese said some amount on the RBZ debt was used to pay for electricity debts and fuel for “Zanu-PF fat cats”.
“You expect the poor impoverished Zimbabweans to pay? I want to challenge Zanu-PF MPs that if they have the interests of people at heart they must join us in blocking this Bill so that we ensure those who benefited reduce the amount,” he said.
Nkayi South MP Abednico Bhebe reiterated: “This is a private debt and if Zanu-PF MPs insist on the government taking over, then we will require that this House be divided so that Zimbabweans can actually judge who have the interests of the people in this House and who are the people in this House actually sanctioning looting.”
This prompted Marondera East MP Jeremiah Chiwetu (Zanu-PF) to hit back saying the $3 million used by the RBZ to buy Tsvangirai’s Highlands house when he was Prime Minister had contributed to the contested RBZ debt.
“If we say Tsvangirai should pay back the $3 million can he manage? He cannot even manage $1 500 per month,” Chiwetu said.
In response, Binga North MP Prince Dubeko Sibanda (MDC-T) claimed that Grace’s Alpha and Omega Dairy project was built using RBZ money and partly contributed to the debt.
Zanu-PF proportional representation MP Sabina Mangwende said those farmers who got farming implements sold a lot of maize to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), but had not yet been paid. She said they would only pay back for the equipment they got after the GMB had paid them for maize deliveries.
After a heated debate, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa told legislators that a separate Bill would soon be introduced in Parliament for the setting up of a Zimbabwe Debt Office to verify and validate the RBZ debt.
He, however, pleaded with MPs to urgently pass the RBZ Debt Assumption Bill in its current state, saying validation of the debt might take long as the central bank required about $250 million to recapitalise.
The Bill now goes to Committee Stage where Chinamasa promised some amendments.