THERE was drama in the National Assembly yesterday with MPs trading insults during the debate on the 2015 National Budget allocation to the Defence ministry forcing business to a halt for about 10 minutes as tempers flared.
MDC-T MPs — Thamsanqa Mahlangu, Innocent Gonese and Settlement Chikwinya — had argued that Treasury should reduce the $379 million Defence vote and reallocate the money to Health and Education which critically needed more resources.
However, Zanu PF MP Ronald Muderedzwa (a former top policeman) in defending the vote called opposition members “a security threat” which did not go down well with the MDC-T MPs.
Deputy Speaker Mabel Chinomona, who was chairing the committee stage of the budget debate, failed to make Muderedzwa withdraw the offending remark ruling that it was parliamentary. The decision forced the opposition lawmakers to threaten a walkout before resolving to stay in the chamber singing and denouncing the chair’s ruling.
MDC-T MP Gift Chimanikire, who is also a member of the Defence Portfolio Committee, said: “It is unfair for Honourable Muderedzwa to label the opposition as a security threat especially that we sit on the same committee.”
The opposition argued that there was no need for Defence to get the second highest vote after Home Affairs that got $411 million considering that Zimbabwe was enjoying peace and had no existing threats from its neighbours in the region.
Business in the House resumed after protracted talks among the chief whips Gonese and Joram Gumbo, chair Chinomona and acting Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda. In the heat of the moment at the Speaker’s table efforts were made to eject MDC-T MP Nelson Chamisa from the House at the instigation of Gumbo.
When order was restored, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa explained that he had cut the Defence budget drastically.
“It’s never an easy issue to balance security and developmental issues in the budget. I hand to cut to the bone the defence bid,” Chinamasa said.
“In the vote that I allocated to Defence I did not put any resources for the purchase of new equipment, sophisticated equipment like helicopters, guns and ammunition. There is no allocation for training and you know armies need to be continuously trained.”
The Defence vote was then passed.
Chinamasa, under pressure from the opposition, conceded that the Office of the Auditor-General had been allocated meagre resources compared to its function. He said the shortfall would be funded by donors.
“I have secured additional funds from other quarters. African Development Bank and the World Bank will fund audits that will be carried out by independent audit firms under the supervision of the Auditor-General,” Chinamasa disclosed.
The National Assembly was expected to pass the budget last night and transmit the Bill to Senate for debate today.