TWO Zanu PF Cabinet ministers last week reportedly ordered the party’s legislators to desist from raising questions touching on the country’s finances in Parliament claiming they put President Robert Mugabe in an awkward position.
Everson Mushave/Xolisani Ncube
Sources said the directive was made by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere during a Zanu PF caucus meeting in Harare last Wednesday.
MPs who attended the meeting told NewsDay that Chinamasa briefed them about Treasury’s empty coffers.
He reportedly said “things are not well and he was finding it hard to balance the country’s dry purse with competing needs”.
“Cde Chinamasa and Kasukuwere pleaded with us not to ask questions which would expose the failure of government on delivery,” said a Zanu PF MP who requested anonymity.
“They gave an example that we should avoid asking questions such as when will government pay farmers who would have delivered their crops to GMB (Grain Marketing Board) because this would expose government’s empty purse.”
Zanu PF chief whip Jorum Gumbo confirmed the meeting, but said he was out of the country at the time.
“I was not there, but I have asked my secretary to brief me on what happened and she said the meeting was chaired by Chinamasa and Kasukuwere,” he said.
Gumbo said from briefings he received, Kasukuwere pleaded with MPs to assist his commissariat department in campaigning for aspiring MPs ahead of the June 10 by-elections.
“Cde Kasukuwere, I am told spoke on the need to assist his department in campaigning for aspiring Zanu PF MPs wherever they are so that the party could win and Cde Chinamasa I am told addressed the meeting on property rights but if you were to ask those two, Cde Kasukuwere and Cde Chinamasa they would help you,” he said.
But insiders said the issue was raised by Kasukuwere who said some of the questions being raised by MPs especially those from rural areas exposed government’s failure to deliver on social services and could jeopardise the party’s public image.
After Kasukuwere’s address, sources said Chinamasa chipped in and informed the lawmakers that the country was no longer creditworthy.
The minister reportedly said Zimbabwe owed several countries and institutions huge sums of money hence it could not attract capital from multilateral institutions.
“Chinamasa said the country owed most countries and institutions in the West and East and they were no longer willing to lend Zimbabwe any money,” the source said.
“He said the only way the country could survive was through private partnerships.”
Another lawmaker said Chinamasa also briefed them on why government was failing to kick start the dualisation of Harare-Beitbridge highway as it was bankrupt.
The source said the government now pinned its hope on private partnerships that will see the highway being upgraded on a build, operate and transfer basis.
Zimbabwe has a foreign debt of over $10 billion and a local debt of over $700 million which it has been failing to service.
Efforts to get a comment from Kasukuwere and Chinamasa were fruitless yesterday as their mobile phones were unreachable with a text message sent to the Environment minister not being responded to.
But Gumbo said if the two ministers indeed gagged the MPs, he would challenge that as it was illegal and a violation of their rights as MPs.
“If it’s true that they said so, they are out of order. If I was there I would not have allowed such a thing to be said to our MPs,” he said.
“It’s an infringement on their rights and undemocratic.
“But as a I said, let me not comment much because I was not there until I get a detailed account of what happened, I will then speak about it.”
The Zanu PF campaign manifesto for the 2013 elections hinged on a swift economic revival but the promises have proved hollow as the economy continues on a downward spiral.