Paidamoyo Muzulu

IN the aftermath of Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s budget that sounded more like was crafted in some Western world capital and delivered in Harare, many people may have missed the assault on our parliamentary democracy by Zanu PF.

First, a cursory look at the 2020 budget statement; Ncube had no qualms to once again nail his colours to the mast as a neo-liberalist, a belief that capital and markets would haul Zimbabwe out of the rut.

Without serious consideration, Ncube removed subsidies on grain — maize — and for the first time in this hyperinflationary environment, millions in urban areas will be queueing for food handouts from donor agencies as their incomes will fall far short to buy basics.

Neo-liberalism has been ditched and exposed as a great fraud even by former kingpins at Brettonwoods institutions such as economist Joseph Stiglitz.

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Stiglitz in a recent opinion titled The end of neo-liberalism and the rebirth of history, wrote: “The credibility of neo-liberalism’s faith in unfettered markets as the surest road to shared prosperity is on life-support these days. And well it should be. The simultaneous waning of confidence in neo-liberalism and in democracy is no coincidence or mere correlation.

Neo-liberalism has undermined democracy for 40 years.”He continued: “In rich and poor countries alike, elites promised that neo-liberal policies would lead to faster economic growth, and that the benefits would trickle down so that everyone, including the poorest, would be better off. To get there, though, workers would have to accept lower wages, and all citizens would have to accept cutbacks in important government programmes.”

As we grapple with this, Zanu PF threw the cat among the pigeons when on Friday its MPs refused to participate in the Public Accounts Parliamentary Committee (PAC) enquiry into Sakunda Holdings. It may look like a stupid retaliatory move to the MDC MPs’ snubbing of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presence every time he steps into Parliament, but there seems to be some method and strategy in the madness.

It is a public secret that Kudakwashe Tagwirei, the owner of Sakunda, is a Zanu PF benefactor. Not only has he pumped money into the party during the 2018 election, but was also rewarded by a seat at the high table as one of Mnangagwa’s chief advisers.

Making Tagwirei speak under oath is akin to having Mnangagwa himself in the dock. My hunch, without evidence, is that the party mandarins whispered the instruction: Zanu PF MPs must not participate in the public lynching of Mnangagwa’s associate, use every trick in the book to make sure the hearings don’t take place. They won the first round easily and most likely that is the end of investigations into Sakunda’s role in the Command Agriculture programme.

This could be linked to Ncube’s Financial Adjustment Bill that seeks to have Parliament condone the Executive’s unexplained expenditure of US$10,6 billion borrowed between 2015 and 2018. Leaving MDC’s Tendai Biti unrattled was not an option. This was part of the strategy where Zanu PF would circumvent PAC and have the issue dealt within the House where the party has a super-majority. In other words, MDC’s boycott of the sitting would be irrelevant as Zanu PF has four-times the required quorum for the House to sit.

However, it has to be noted here and now that Zanu PF MPs and Ncube are behaving like rogues and getting away with it.MPs in their oath of office as prescribed in the Constitution promise to: “Be faithful to Zimbabwe, that I will uphold the Constitution and all other laws of Zimbabwe, and that I will perform my duties as a Senator/Member of the National Assembly faithfully and to the best of my ability. So help me God.”

Zanu PF MPs through ignorance or impunity by their very action breached one of their core roles in Parliament section 299(1) of the Constitution which reads: “Parliament must monitor and oversee expenditure by the State and all commissions and institutions and agencies of government at every level, including statutory bodies, government-controlled entities, provincial and metropolitan councils and local authorities, in order to ensure that — all revenue is accounted for, all expenditure has been properly incurred; and; any limits and conditions on appropriations have been observed.”

Ncube cannot be absolved of breaching the Constitution as he is ordered by the supreme law to report twice annually to Parliament on debts contracted by the State or guaranteed by it.
Section 300(4) of the Constitution reads: “The minister responsible for finance must — (a) at least twice a year, report to Parliament on the performance of — (i) loans raised by the State; and (ii) loans guaranteed by the State.”

Mthuli since his appointment has avoided doing what the law requires of him and all of a sudden he brings a condonation Bill to the House.How long can good citizens allow Zanu PF to breach the Constitution and get away with it because it has a super majority in the House? Can Zanu PF MPs be men and women of integrity and follow the law and their conscience in their duties at Parliament? This may be asking too much from a party that behaves on herd-mentality.