via RBZ debt: Chapfika got $80k, never repaid 20 September 2014
ONGOING public hearings by Parliament on whether tax-payers must take over the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s US$1,3 billion debt, could turn into a monumental farce after it emerged chair of the legislative committee leading the exercise, David Chapfika, was a beneficiary of the central bank’s controversial agro mechanisation scheme.
When challenged by NewZimbabwe.com over the allegations, Chapfika, who was deputy finance minister when the farming implements were being handed out, denied being a beneficiary – sort of.
The $200 million scheme, said by the opposition to have only benefitted top Zanu PF officials, was part of the widely condemned quasi-fiscal operations carried out by the central bank and blamed for stoking the debt beyond the bank’s capacity to repay.
Former reserve bank governor, Gideon Gono has previously refused to reveal the names of beneficiaries who have not paid for the equipment in hearings, telling a parliamentary select committee that such disclosure was illegal under the RBZ Act.
But Parliament’s portfolio committee on budget and finance is currently on a countrywide tour to gather public views on whether Treasury should assume the debt through the proposed RBZ Debt Assumption Bill.
Government’s takeover of the debt, Zimbabweans have been told, is aimed at easing the troubled apex bank’s liabilities to allow it to concentrate on its core functions.
But the outreach meetings have given agitated citizens a rare public platform to express their anger with Gono, architect of the quasi-fiscal activities carried out as the country battled a serious economic crisis some seven years ago.
During the meetings, angry citizens have not minced their words, telling the parliamentarians in their faces they should not be burdened with paying debts which were created through President Robert Mugabe’s patronage system.
Chapfika has diligently presided over the meetings where members of the public demanded that those who took agricultural equipment from the RBZ must be forced to pay for the implements.
RBZ sources told NewZimbabwe.com at the weekend Chapfika’s benefits amounted to US$80,000, and that he was struggling to repay the debt.
The legislator is said to have helped himself to a monosem 4 Row planter, a Hastt 24 disc harrow, a brand new Massey Ferguson tractor and a motor bike among other items.
When Gono parcelled out the implements during the height of the country’s economic turmoil, Chapfika was deputy minister of finance, and the RBZ chief’s boss.
“Whether l benefited or not, but l did not benefit, this function (public outreach) is being carried out by parliament; it’s a statutory requirement that we do them,” he said.
“Look, here Chapfika never benefited but if l benefited, come and show me what l benefited but if l did like everyone else, obviously l should be called to account.”
Further challenged to clearly state whether he benefited or not, Chapfika turned abusive, accusing this reporter of becoming too personal with him.
He went on: “I am doing this in my capacity as chairman, it’s not Chapfika who is doing these public hearings, it’s the committee … we have been to Mutare, we have been to Bulawayo, to Gweru and today we are in Harare, as a committee not Chapfika.
“I just happen to be the chairperson – if l won’t be there somebody else assumes my position.”
The RBZ debt ballooned when Gono embarked on his populist farm mechanisation scheme, which saw mostly Zanu PF land beneficiaries receiving farm implements, some of which they exchanged for quick cash on the black market.
Mutare residents last week told Chapfika’s committee that individuals who benefited from various government programmes should pay back loans, including for machinery and equipment given to them.
“I don’t know why it is doing that. Why should us, taxpayers, fund someone’s personal projects? There are so many capable people who benefited from government’s programmes, these are the people who should be invoiced,” said one Regai Tsunga.