The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Planning has stirred controversy by recommending that beneficiaries of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) farm mechanisation programme must not be forced to pay for the equipment they received.
By VENERANDA LANGA
This is despite that people demanded that the beneficiaries be made to pay back during public hearings on the RBZ Debt Assumption Bill.
While presenting the report on the $1,35 billion RBZ Debt Assumption Bill in the National Assembly, chairperson of the committee David Chapfika [Zanu PF] said: “Whereas evidence received by the committee from the public included calls that beneficiaries of the farm mechanisation programme be made to pay for the machinery and equipment they received, the committee’s position is that there be no payments by beneficiaries because the programme was noble as it anchored the land reform programme.”
The issue has irked some legislators who are demanding that hundreds of public officials who got farming equipment between 2007 and 2008, like tractors, combine harvesters, generators, harrows and others pay back the State.
They want transparency and the release of names of the people who benefited as the debt would now be paid back by ordinary Zimbabweans.
Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) said the nation was bleeding and the beneficiary list should be made public.
“You cannot have the comfort of parking a tractor and combine harvester and then come here to say the State must take over my debt. We need accountability of the highest order and let those who benefited pay for their benefits,” he said.
MDC proportional representation MP Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga also advocated for the naming of the beneficiaries, adding the machinery was offered to all MPs regardless of political affiliation.
Some refused to take the equipment for ethical reasons, but others belonging to different political parties gladly accepted them.
“Some of us said we had no use for the inputs since we had no plots or farms but others took the inputs. So, the people who took the inputs are not only Zanu PF members but there are others from the opposition,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.
Kambuzuma MP Willias Madzimure (MDC-T) said those who got the equipment must face the heat and pay.
“The people of Zimbabwe sent us here to represent them and their interests — and are we agreeing that the people are saying we should write off the debt accrued from those who were given tractors?” Madzimure said.
Another MP, Jessie Majome (Harare West) said MPs should pay solemn attention to their consciences and to some ethical issues arising from the Bill, and ask whether they were doing the right thing for the woman who did not benefit and the man sleeping on the streets.
“There must be a declaration and publication of the personal benefits, particularly of MPs who obtained debts so that we can objectively decide to pass or not to pass this Bill. Our consideration of this Bill will make others out there judge us as to whether or not we are capable of passing good laws,” Majome said.
The RBZ Debt Assumption Bill is still in the Second Reading Stage before the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, MDC-T UK and Ireland Chairman Tonderai Samanyanga has urged MPs to reject the Bill.
“The MDC-T UK hereby registers our shock at the Zanu [PF] government’s proposal that the nation should take on a $1,2 billion Reserve Bank debt,” Samanyanga said in a stastement. “This includes $200 million dished out to Zanu PF bosses and others who were being bribed in a conspiracy to enrich themselves by bankrupting the national depository of wealth.”
He said Chinamasa was also a beneficiary of the scheme.
“We demand that the corrupt recipients of these funds be named and shamed and made to repay what they were given, which was national money that could have built schools or roads or fed hungry families whose breadwinners lost their jobs,” said Samanyanga.
He alleged that Zanu PF bosses have built mansions, and stashed millions of dollars in foreign accounts, thanks to the transfer of wealth that was enabled by their access to US dollars provided to them by the RBZ, while the rest of the population was impoverished by a “trillion percent inflation”.