BY VENERANDA LANGA
THERE was chaos and drama in Parliament yesterday as tempers flared when Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi ignored issues raised by opposition MDC Alliance MPs and Norton legislator Temba Mliswa (Independent) over illegalities in the 2019 mid-term supplementary budget presented last week.
MPs abandoned the debate after they failed to get satisfactory answers on whether Ncube’s $10 billion took into cognisance the prevailing interbank exchange rate and accused Zanu PF of not taking seriously the fact that the nation was facing an economic crisis.
During the melee, Mliswa lost his temper and exchanged harsh words with Lupane West MP Martin Khumalo (Zanu PF), who was chairing the committee stage of the
Appropriation Bill, which has to do with allocations to each ministry from the budget.
The disagreements began when Harare East MP Tendai Biti (MDC Alliance) pointed out an illegality in the budget over currency changes.
“If the Finance minister is bringing in a brand new budget for 2019, then that would be acceptable, but this cannot be called a supplementary budget if the minister is adding money onto the original 2019 budget, which was in US dollars,” Biti said.
“The point is that after introduction of SI 142 (2019), the US dollar was demonetised and we now have a new currency. On December 22, we passed a US dollar budget and so Ncube should come up with a new budget for 2019 in Zimbabwean dollars or go back to the original US dollar budget and convert it to Zimbabwean dollars at the interbank rate and then provide a supplementary budget.”
He said Ncube’s move contravened SI 133 in that the net effect was that the original budget was at a 1:1 rate and, therefore, should now be converted at the prevailing interbank exchange rate because increasing the budget by $10 billion did not make sense and was like oranges talking to apples.
But Ziyambi sprang to Ncube’s defence, saying that there was no illegality.
“What happened is that when we introduced the original US$ budget, the RTGS (real time gross settlement) balances for that particular day were equivalent to the US dollar and the opening balance of the budget was equivalent to the interbank rate of that particular date,” he said.
Mliswa then supported Biti’s point saying that Ncube’s figures in the supplementary budget bluebook were very confusing.
“Let us be very honest. There is the issue of the interbank rate which Ncube introduced, but the balance is not showing that it has changed to the interbank rate. For instance, we hear that MetBank has paid its debt to NSSA (National Social Security Authority) and I am saying they must pay at the interbank rate because they borrowed in US$,” Mliswa said.
At that juncture, Khumalo quashed Mliswa’s example, which then irked the Norton legislator, who then shouted at Khumalo, saying that he was not listening to their concerns and was reducing budget debate to a Zanu PF meeting.
“This is rubbish and you have provoked me. Are you a MetBank accountholder, and I want you to chuck me out of the House. You are corrupt,” Mliswa shouted at Khumalo.
Mliswa then turned to Ncube and he asked him if he had even achieved the objectives of the original US$6 billion budget, and Ncube responded “yes”.
This further irked Mliswa, who then shouted to Ncube, saying: “The minister is lying. He cannot say he achieved the first budget when civil servants and war veterans are suffering.
This is absolute rubbish in the eyes of the nation and it is better for me to leave the House and go to work for the constituency,” he said as he walked out of the House.
Seeing that Biti’s concerns were not being considered, leader of the opposition Thabitha Khumalo then said the minister was denying them clarity on the budget and, therefore, the MDC were not in a position to continue debating the budget.
This then resulted in Zanu PF legislators having a field day and they passed all the votes without debate or considering their implications on Zimbabweans.
There was chaos throughout and later, the opposition legislators changed their mind and debated again with Dzivarasekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa (MDC Alliance) describing Ncube’s budget as having “devilish elements”.
“We thought the Finance minister was going to repent and withdraw the 2% transaction tax which he imposed on poor people. Uniformed forces are moving in torn uniforms because of Ncube’s austerity measures and what the minister is doing is to suffocate every poor person except the bourgeoisie. The minister does not care for the people,” Mushoriwa said.
Opposition MPs said Ncube must rethink about his taxes because they were daylight robbery to generate revenue to pay debts.