via Govt struggles to fund Sadc summit – The Zimbabwe Independent March 29, 2015 by Elias Mambo/Hazel Ndebele
THE broke Zanu PF government, already struggling to meet its financial obligations, has extended a begging bowl to local companies — battling for survival in a hostile economic environment — to help it out by funding an extraordinary Sadc summit set for Harare next month, the Zimbabwe Independent has been informed.
The Sadc summit on industrialisation will be held in Harare, starting April 26 although the heads of state and government will meet on April 29. This follows a recent meeting on industrialisation hosted by the Inter-governmental Committee of Experts in Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe did not pay for the meeting as it was funded by the United Nations Economic Commission’s Zambia office.
Due to financial problems, Harare had reportedly asked South Africa to step in and host the Sadc indaba, but the situation seems to have now changed.
In a letter to the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (Baz), titled Resource mobilisation meeting for hosting the Sadc extraordinary summit in April 2015: Wednesday March 25 2015, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs begs for funds to host the event.
This has also happened before; during the July 2013 general elections, Zanu PF congress last December and the recent President Robert Mugabe birthday bash.
Following Mugabe’s appointment as Sadc chairperson last August, responsibilities which come with the position are evidently becoming a heavy burden on the practically bankrupt government battling to pay civil servants.
Government is currently auditing its over 550 000-strong workforce to prepare for retrenchments even though the ruling party promised to create 2,2 million jobs before elections. Treasury is spending over 80% of its revenues on the wage bill as its tax base shrinks and income dwindles.
The official begging for money to fund the summit comes at a time Mugabe is squandering government’s little resources gallivanting around the world attending all sorts of meetings and has been saying the African Union and Sadc should liberate themselves from relying on donor support for finances.
In the letter dated March 24 to Baz CEO Sijabuliso Biyam, an SV Muzenda, writing on behalf of Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Joey Bimha, invites bankers to a meeting with senior ministry official, Ambassador James Manzou.
“As you are aware, preparations for the hosting of the Sadc Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government are progressing and are at an advanced stage. Please find attached our proposal for possible areas of funding which your organisation may assist,” reads part of the letter.
“Government is seeking US$8 157 for the April 26 conference meeting of the standing committee of senior officials, US$12 375 for the April 27-28 conference package for the council of ministers, US$28 000 conference package for the extraordinary meeting on April 29. The government is also seeking donations of 700 golf T-shirts, 500 round neck T-shirts and 40 000 units of mineral water.”
The letter says the Sadc extraordinary summit will be on April 29.
Among its lengthy request for donations, the virtually penniless government is also seeking 26 000 litres of petrol, 16 000 litres of diesel, 2 000 units of Mazoe (concentrated fruit juice), 500 units of beverages and fruit juices, and suits for drivers (150), liaison officers (50) and ushers (50).
A meeting was held at Foreign Affairs on Wednesday with bankers to discuss how to fund the Sadc summit.
Local corporates are always called upon to rescue Zanu PF and government each time there is a big event, be it Mugabe’s birthday parties, general elections or the annual Zanu PF conferences or its congress.
The Sadc extraordinary summit will seek to push the region’s industrialisation agenda. Last year’s Sadc summit in Victoria Falls was held under the theme: “Sadc Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Value Addition and Beneficiation.”
At the forthcoming summit, Mugabe will reportedly be pushing South Africa and Namibia to sign the trade protocol which sets out general obligations for all state parties.
Sadc members signed the Trade Protocol in August 2012, but at the Victoria Falls Sadc summit last year South Africa and Namibia refused to sign.
South African ambassador to Zimbabwe Vusi Mavimbela told the Independent this week his country would only sign the protocol if there is a concrete framework on how the countries would trade.
“When you talk of liberalisation there is need to emphasise on industrialisation; South Africa has largely industrialised but a number of countries in the region still have to. Trade is currently one way; it is mainly South Africa selling goods to other countries,” he said.
“South Africa has institutions that lend money for industrialisation as well as infrastructure. If we do not develop the whole region we will continue having one way trade and people flocking to South Africa, therefore, we are very keen to industrialise the whole region.”
Asked when South Africa is likely to sign the trade protocol Mavimbela said: “The Sadc council of ministers held in Harare early this month adopted a document which largely deals with trade and industrialisation and our ministers are coming back on April 12 to finalise that document, which will be presented to the Sadc heads of state summit.”
Mavimbela said South Africa needed a solid framework which will work before signing. “Before we finalise discussions and debates we need a concrete framework which will work and ensure there is no possibility of disintegrating,” he said, adding, “there is some vacuum which still exists and as we speak now the Sadc trade protocol is actually being violated by some countries.”
Last year Mugabe told journalists after officially closing the Sadc summit in Victoria Falls that South Africa should help in the industrialisation of the region rather than turn other countries into mere consumers of its products.
“We want a reciprocal relationship where we sell to each other and not just receiving products from one source,” he said.