THE government has secured $500 million in foreign credit facilities to ease a cash crisis that has crippled local industry, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said yesterday at the official opening of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament, and ruled out a quick return of the Zimdollar, citing a fragile economy.
BY VENERANDA LANGA/TATIRA ZWINOIRA
But Mnangagwa was left to address Zanu PF Members of Parliament after opposition MDC Alliance legislators heckled him and walked out when he started reading his speech, showing a deep polarisation among the political parties following a divisive election.
The opposition party lost the bitterly contested July 30 election, which was only settled when the Constitutional Court dismissed a challenge by the opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa.
Its MPs also refused to stand as per tradition when Mnangagwa’s procession walked into the House, maintaining that the 76-year-old leader lacked legitimacy because of what they termed electoral theft by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
In his State of the Nation Address (Sona) to both houses of Parliament, Mnangagwa said the country would not rush to re-introduce its own currency as the economy was too fragile to sustain it.
The southern African nation dumped its Zimdollar in 2009 and replaced it with the multi-currency system to curb runway inflation, which peaked at 500 billion% in December 2008, according to the International Monetary Fund figures.
“My government shall continue with the use of the multi-currency system up until the current negative economic fundamentals have been addressed to give credence to the introduction of the local currency,” Mnangagwa said.
The $500 million worth of credit lines will help ease the liquidity crisis and part of the money will be disbursed this week, he added, but did not give details of where the money was coming from.
It is possible that the figure could be part of the $250 million loan facility from Gemcorp, a United Kingdom-based investment firm announced by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube on Monday.
“In order to bring sanity in the foreign currency market, my government, through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, has negotiated a number of foreign exchange facilities amounting to $500 million that are intended to meet the growing demand for foreign currency by business and the public in general,” he said, adding that some of the facilities would be disbursed this week.
With no foreign support because of its poor credit record or significant foreign direct investment inflows, Zimbabwe struggles to pay for essential imports.
Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe needs currency reserves of between three to six months as well as sustainable business and customer confidence before the local unit becomes viable.
In his speech, Mnangagwa also said the nation must eradicate medieval diseases such as cholera through addressing the challenges related to clean water and waste management.
“In this regard, the enforcement of the Public Health Act, which I recently assented to, shall be imperative,” he said.
In his Sona speech, Mnangagwa said public servants were obliged to change their work ethics to ensure the efficient and prudent use of public resources, and ensure accountability.
“We will vehemently fight bureaucratic red tape and bottlenecks. Equally, State enterprises have an obligation to operate profitably and cannot continue to be a burden to the fiscus,” he said.
Mnangagwa laid out an ambitious busy schedule for the First Session of the Ninth Parliament, where he announced the crafting of about 29 Bills, some of which will be amended, as well as ratification of different protocols.
Most of the Bills are to do with ease of doing business, the courts, media laws, as well as protection of children’s rights through crafting of the Child Justice Bill, Marriages Bill and Mandatory Sentences for Rape and Sexual Abuse Bill.
He also announced that the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Bill would facilitate the devolution of government powers and responsibilities to provincial and local authorities.
“The Labour Amendment Bill will be brought to this House for discussion and approval. This must be in tandem with the on-going ease and cost of doing business,” he said.
Media Bills that will be brought before Parliament will include a Bill to establish the Zimbabwe Media Commission, amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act, the Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill, the Data Protection Bill and the Electronic Transactions and Electronic Commercial Bill.
Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust executive director John Makamure said Mnangagwa managed to dwell on critical issues of public interest like economic revival, which is critical.
“It means it should not be business as usual for MPs and we expect the Ninth Parliament MPs to research and contribute meaningfully to the Sona,” Makamure said.
But opposition MPs who walked out on Mnangagwa and heckled him when he said the elections were peaceful, free and fair, were adamant that they would never respect him as a legitimate leader.
“We will not recognise him. Our president Nelson Chamisa won the election and what happened at the Constitutional Court was treason. It was an act of usurping Chamisa’s power as the legitimate leader of the country elected by Zimbabweans,” Thabitha Khumalo, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, told NewsDay.
Norton MP Temba Mliswa (independent) blasted the MDC Alliance MPs, saying they should not accept the Parliament vehicles if they were against Mnangagwa.
But Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya (MDC Alliance) said the vehicles were not personal, but were meant to assist MPs in their roles.
Chivi South MP Killer Zivhu (Zanu PF), who is also leader of the Zimbabwe Cross Border Traders’ Association, said Mnangagwa showed he was in touch with reality.
“Indeed, we are heartened by the President’s speech that touched on the core of what needs to be done. If as legislators we stick to what the President has said, this country has hope that change will, indeed, spread to the benefit of our people,” he said.
“The issue of devolution is key, provincial councils will take development to the people. The youths and women’s banks that the President said will be used as conduits to uplift these key groups who make the majority of informal traders in our society speak of a leader who is aware of where this country should go. It’s time to work and business unusual.”
Chiefs’ Council president Fortune Charumbira hailed Mnangagwa, saying his speech was consistent, adding that 80% of the Bills he announced were in line with his electoral promises.