ZANU PF and MDC parliamentarians crossed swords in the National Assembly over the government’s decision to take over the huge Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) debt.
The ruling party’s MPs supported the move while the opposition legislators argued those that benefited from the central bank’s quasi-fiscal largesse must shoulder the bill.
Parliament is debating the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Debt Assumption Bill that, if it sails through, will enable the government to take over the more than $1 billion incurred by the bank through its quasifiscal activities.
The debt accumulated through, among others, the farm mechanisation programme that saw well connected individuals getting tractors, among other farming machinery, and equipment for a song or for free.
“Mr Speaker Sir. I want to add my voice to this shocking strategy to accept that stealing is normal. We are being told that we have to write off some money that was used to buy tractors, trailers and so forth,” MDC-T legislator Tabitha Khumalo said in Parliament on Tuesday, according to the Hansard.
“I want to support the motion that this Bill must not go through. Name and shame the beneficiaries of this process and the beneficiaries of this process must pay back to the government, not to burden the workers of this country,” she added.
Khumalo indicated that Zimbabweans were already overtaxed and could not be burdened by other taxes to clear the RBZ debt.
“What it now means is, we are going to increase taxes; which taxes will go to the workers; which workers we have not paid for two years plus, as we are sitting here. Most workers in this country have not been paid for years and if we are going to take this burden back to them, the only source of income for any government is taxes . . .”
Another MDC-T legislator Tose Wesley Sansole supported Khumalo saying there must be an audit to expose the beneficiaries before the government assumes it.
“What needs to be done with regards expenditure is that it must be subjected to forensic audit before it is assumed by the government,” Sansole argued.
“All the beneficiaries must be made to pay for their debts.”
Zanu PF MPs, however, justified the RBZ’s quasi-fiscal activities, saying it was necessary to save the country from collapse, hence the government should assume it without any questions.
“As a nation, we were in a very difficult position. The Zimbabwean government was in a war situation and had to operate outside the box. In a war there is no formula and no book economics,” Ronald Muderedzwa said.