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Feature: ED wants to win, whatever the cost

Opinion & Analysis
Mnangagwa has been on an accelerated infrastructure development trajectory — dams, roads, schools and hospitals, among others. He has been using the printing press to finance these projects, which he hopes will put him in a best position to be re-elected despite the worsening macro-economic conditions where the majority of workers cannot afford basic needs.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has set his eyes on re-election next year, 2023, and will not allow anything to stand in his quest, even if it means he has to disregard good principles of public finance management inscribed in his country’s laws.

Mnangagwa has been on an accelerated infrastructure development trajectory — dams, roads, schools and hospitals, among others. He has been using the printing press to finance these projects, which he hopes will put him in a best position to be re-elected despite the worsening macro-economic conditions where the majority of workers cannot afford basic needs.

The cost of running the printing machine is felt by all and sundry through the skyrocketing inflation, now topping 500%, and the devaluation of the local currency which is now $800 to the greenback.

It seems Mnangagwa is not ready to stop the splurging. Last month, his government tabled a nearly $1 trillion supplementary budget. The supplementary budget is slightly below the 2022 national budget that was tabled in Parliament last November.

The tabling of the supplementary budget is a first under Mnangagwa since the 2017 coup that brought him to power. It is a tacit confirmation that the economy is not working, it is being choked by spiralling inflation.

Civil servants have become restive and calls for industrial action are getting louder. Service delivery at schools, hospitals and all public offices is slowly grinding to a halt and citizens are increasingly being pushed to find services at private players.

A few weeks before the supplementary budget, the Mnangagwa administration tabled a Financial Adjustment Bill 2022 to the tune of $107 billion. This staggering amount was used without authorisation in the financial years 2019 and 2020.

This is not the first Financial Adjustment Bill that government has tabled in Parliament. In 2019, it tabled a Bill to the tune of US$9,8 billion that had also been spent without parliamentary authorisation.

In the 2019 Financial Adjustment Bill — a third of the amount, US$3,2 billion was used to finance the command agriculture programme. It is the same command agriculture programme that had 85% of its beneficiaries not paying back the loans. Lists circulating show that politicians and Zanu PF functionaries are the major beneficiaries. Actually, it’s a vote-buying programme.

The fact that this is the second Financial Adjustment Bill within three years proves that the  Mnangagwa government is becoming an expert in constitutional delinquency. It is unashamed of its financial imprudence so long as it guarantees re-election.

From the look of things, the Financial Adjustment Bill will not sail through Parliament until Treasury gives a breakdown of how much was spent in which department. For now, it seems that this information is unavailable or it is being deliberately withheld because it was used to fund Zanu PF activities or pay for some corrupt deals to politically-exposed persons.

It is important that Parliament should take its responsibility of holding the Executive to account seriously. Parliament should be questioning how Treasury only realised such massive expenditure without authorisation two years after. The law is clear that such expenditure should be reported to Parliament within 60 days of it being known. That these things happened and went on for a while with Parliament not raising an issue shows the danger of having a party with two-thirds majority in the august House and at the same time holding the presidency. The collusion is astounding.

It should be of interest for Zimbabweans to acquaint themselves with how the ANC in South Africa under Jacob Zuma allowed the Gupta brothers to capture the State. And to also further learn that when Parliament acquiesces to the Executive how much unapproved expenditure will take place?

When South Africa became interested and finally wanted to hold Zuma to account, the damage had been done.

Zimbabwe is likely to suffer the same fate. Mnangagwa will ride roughshod over every other law on public finance management to ensure his re-election and continued Zanu PF dominance in national politics. The printing press will continue running and connected businesses will get more contracts to deliver infrastructure ahead of the 2023 general elections. Nothing stops him, but Zimbabweans will pay dearly. – African Thinker