While the media last had its eyes fixed on the Zanu PF circus after congress as it continue to purge Mujuru allies through summary expulsions without hearings, the party’s two-thirds majority bubble burst in the National Assembly with the opposition MDC-T blocking the passage of the Reserve Bank (Debt Assumption) Bill.
The party, whether as a diversionary tactic to its whipping at the hands of the opposition in parliament, expelled Didymus Mutasa and his nephew Temba Mliswa and threatened to declare their seats vacancy, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa was forced to temporarily halt the RBZ Debt Assumption Bill as its demise became apparent.
The MDC-T vowed to block the Bill that seeks among other things the state to assume central bank’s $1,35 billion debt mainly accrued during RBZ’s quasi-fiscal era. The bank under Gideon Gono contracted $800 million debts of which a quarter, $200 million, was used to enrich Zanu PF functionaries who were allocated farming implements that included tractors, combine harvesters, ploughs, disc harrows and trailers.
Opposition chief whip Innocent Gonese took Chinamasa and Zanu Pf by surprise at the committee stage of the Bill when he objected to the Bills debate raising a point of order. His point of order sought to have Zanu (PF) MPs who benefitted from the Farm Mechanisation Programme to recuse themselves from voting on the Bill.
Gonese said, “We still stand by our position to block the Bill and our demands that everyone who benefitted from the $200 million farm mechanization project should not participate in the voting of at the Third reading of the proposed legislation.”
The net effect of Gonese’s call means Zanu (PF) in a twinkle on an eye will lose its majority as most of its MPs benefitted from the programme and secure the opposition’s position of blocking the Bill.
Gonese added that government should avail to the house a full list of the beneficiaries before the vote is taken.
In his argument he cited Priviledges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act Section 17 Chapter 2:8 and Standing Orders number 102.
Both provisions say, ‘anyone (MP) who has got a pecuniary interest is precluded from participating in the vote on a Bill or matter under deliberation.’
It remains to be seen how Zanu PF will wriggle from this one. The party since 2009 has consistently dodged releasing the list of beneficiaries amidst speculation that most of the implements went to cabinet ministers, party leaders and senior civil servants in an opaque manner.
The nation also learns from the unfolding drama that Zanu PF’s sense of entitlement to state resources is failing to wane despite receiving free land, free inputs and to some extent free labour in the past decade or so. There is no coherent reason why taxpayers should fund the $200 million debt that went towards economically empowering known individuals who have the wherewithal to repay.
For now the MDC-T has stood with the masses but it remains to be seen whether in the behind the scenes political negotiations they will stay resolute and run the course of blocking this Bill. If blocked, the opposition would have made history for becoming the first minority party to stop a majority government sponsored Bill since independence in 1980. It will also be a small but significant victory for the people of Zimbabwe from the tyranny of entitlement enjoyed by Zanu PF politicians.