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President must appear before parly: Senators

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Senators yesterday demanded that President Robert Mugabe and his Cabinet be summoned before the Senate to explain why there was discord in government, given disclosures they were singing from different hymn books when it came to budgetary issues.

Gwabalanda Senator Agnes Sibanda made the proposition during debate of the Finance Bill, in relation to the Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Statement which was being scrutinised in the Senate before it was finally passed.

“We want the whole of Cabinet, including President Mugabe, to come to Senate so that we can ask them questions and understand why they are failing to resolve economic issues because we hear they talk too much in Cabinet, but there is no implementation,” Sibanda said.

“Does the Minister of Finance decide on financial issues alone because it seems he has to take all the blame on financial issues alone and I am even ashamed to hear that as a country we look upon Cabinet to come up with policies to uplift us, but we hear it is a dead Cabinet?”

Her sentiments were supported by Chitungwiza Senator James Makore, who said Cabinet should be asked whether the economy was failing due to corruption or bad policy formulation.

Mwenezi-Chivi Senator Josaya Hungwe also asked Biti to explain if there were Cabinet sub-committees to look at serious economic issues.

Biti told the senators that he was going to pass on the message to Cabinet, but added sub-committees were set up but “died a natural death”.

“We once had a sub-committee called Resource Mobilisation chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe and a Cost Drivers sub-committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, but after two to four weeks they died and that was the end of it. We are long on talking but short on implementation, but the war remains with the Ministry of Finance,” he said.

Biti also threatened to join civil servants next time they decided to go on strike saying: “I notice there was a demonstration yesterday for pay increases by civil servants; I want them to be paid. There is no question about that, but the problem is that 73% of the budget is going towards 235 000 people, leaving only 27% for 14 million people. Next time they demonstrate, I am going to join them so that we can go together to the Ministry of Mines to bring money for diamonds and also to the Ministry of Defence to ask why they are over-employing.”

But Rushinga Senator Damian Mumvuri suggested since the country was failing to pay civil servants, government should introduce incentives such as housing loans, vehicle loans, or even to subsidise payment of fees for teachers’ children.

On Tuesday, Biti told the House of Assembly that government was in a state of paralysis, while describing Cabinet as “deadwood” and Zimbabwe as a nation of “scarecrows and dead people without conscience” because the economic problems bedevilling the country were being politicised and a lot of good programmes had been crafted but lacked implementation.

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