Chamisa tells industry minister to stop waffling

MDC Deputy Vice President Chamisa in Parliament

Movement for Democratic Change deputy president Nelson Chamisa told Minister of Industry and Commerce Mike Bimha to stop waffling when he was asked what the government was doing to stop hyperinflation since prices had gone up by as much as 100 percent.

Bimha said the prices had rocketed because of unsubstantiated reports on the social media.

The country was also experiencing foreign currency problems.

But the government had decided to address the in two ways.

It had put up a task force to look into the price escalations as well as availability of basic commodities.

Chamisa interrupted Bimha before he could state the second way complaining that the minister was waffling and talking about policy.

The best way to address the issue was for Bimha to issue a ministerial statement so that legislators could ask him questions.

John Holder who had asked the original question insisted he wanted to know what the government was doing because prices were going up every day.

Bimha said his ministry was talking to the business sector.

Asked by Temba Mliswa whether he was admitting that there was now political instability in the country, Bimha dodged the question saying that the issue of economic stability was the responsibility of “all of us”.

HON. HOLDER:  Thank you Madam Speaker.  I said my question is directed to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. What policy has Government put in place to protect hyper inflation since most of the commodities in the shops have gone up by almost 100%?

THE MINISTER OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (HON. DR. CHOMBO):  Thank you Madam Speaker.  I wish to thank the Hon. Member for his question, but I think he should direct it to the Minister of Industry and Commerce.  I thank you.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Hon. Member, may you redirect your question to the appropriate Ministry.

HON. HOLDER:  Thank you Madam Speaker, I will redirect my question to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce..

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order, order, Hon. Chapfika please bear with us.  The Hon. Ministers will need to understand the questions.

HON. HOLDER:  I redirect my question to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

THE MINISTER OF INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE (HON. DR. BIMHA):  Thank you Madam Speaker, I also want to thank the Hon. Member for raising that question.  I would probably preface my response just to bring to the attention of the Hon. Member that on the 22nd September this year, we experienced a crisis arising from unsubstantiated reports through the social media that there was a looming price hike; that there was going to be a widespread shortage of basic commodities and that the Central Bank was in the process of mopping up the United States Dollar.

At the same time, we were also experiencing shortages in terms of forex supplied to manufacturers for them to be able to procure the much needed raw materials for their production.  As a result of these unsubstantiated reports or information, there was panic buying and this panic buying also had an effect of causing shortages.  In the confusion, we also had other unscrupulous wholesalers, retailers and manufacturers also taking advantage of this.

Now, what Government has done in order to address this issue is in two-fold.  Firstly, Cabinet has put together a task force which is chaired by my Ministry to look into the issue of price escalations as well as the availability of basic commodities.  This Inter-Ministerial Task Force is guided by very comprehensive terms of reference going further than issues of price or availability of products, going into the whole issue of the availability of forex, issues to do with the cost of money; others also looking through the Competition and Tariff Commission, and collusive and anti-competitive tendencies by suppliers.  There is a whole breath of issues that this committee is looking into.

A number of meetings have now been held and tomorrow, the Hon. Ministers will meet to consider the report from the committee of officials.  Therefore, tomorrow there will be a meeting of the Hon. Ministers to consider …

HON. ADV. CHAMISA:  On a point of order Madam Speaker.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order, order, no, no, may you please wait – [AN HON. MEMBER: Ipoint of order ka!] – No, no, there is no need because he will come in and we have a supplementary question. – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – Hon. Chamisa, can you not wait so that he finishes then you raise your point of order?

HON. ADV. CHAMISA:  It is a point of order and the rules are clear.  I have a point of order.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  What is the point of order?

*HON. ADV. CHAMISA:  Thank you Madam Speaker. The Hon. Minister is going on and on in elucidating the policies of this country.  May he please be brief or may be issue a Ministerial Statement on the matter and allow us to raise questions.  At the moment, he is touching on a lot issues that have to do with other Hon. Members of Parliament.  I thank you.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order, order. As far as I am concerned, the Hon. Minister was on the right path of giving a clear explanation.  So, I will allow him to proceed.

HON. DR. BIMHA:  Thank you Madam Speaker.  The report of the committee of officials is now ready and will be subjected to scrutiny by the committee of Ministers.  Once that report is clear then Government will be directed accordingly.  I thank you.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  The issue of a Ministerial Statement Hon. Minister, I think like what the Hon. Member was saying is also appropriate so that Hon. Members of Parliament will seek clarification and you explain – point taken Hon. Members. Hon. Mliswa!

HON. HOLDER:  Supplementary question Madam Speaker, but ndini ndabvunza mubvunzo wacho!

HON. MLISWA:  Madam Speaker, thank you very much.  I hope…

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order, order may you please wait Hon. Mliswa.  Hon. Holder has a supplementary question.

HON. MLISWA:  Oh sorry Madam Speaker.

HON. HOLDER:  Thank you Madam Speaker. The reason why I called for a supplementary question is, I understood what the Hon. Minister said but here we are living on reality and the reality is that the prices of any commodity in any shop has gone up –[HON. MEMBERS: Yes!] –  Currently, as I speak, all vegetables and other stuff have been banned from importation.

I am saying, what mechanism has he put in place?  What are they going to do now because it is affecting everybody here?  I thank you.

HON. DR. BIMHA:  Thank you Madam Speaker, there are two aspects to this issue.  First of all, there is no ban and I want to repeat that when we came up  with Statutory Instruments to regulate the importation of certain goods, we indicated that this is not a ban and that when there are issues to do with the supply and demand, we will facilitate the importation of those products because as Government, we do not want to witness shortages.  So, if we are in a position where our local producers are not in a position to meet demand, we will allow importation.

However in the interim, while this exercise that I have explained earlier on is taking place, my Ministry has been having inspectors around all the provinces in the country who have been monitoring the price escalations from the 24th September to date to ensure that we have facts when we approach the producers.  So, we now have information of what has been happening as regards prices and issues that we will have to engage the retailers, producers and wholesalers.  We can only do that when we have information and that information is now available.  I thank you.

HON. MLISWA:  Madam Speaker, thank you very much.  I hope that the Hon. Minister realises that by accepting that there is hyper-inflation which is caused by political instability and inflation is due to mere economics.  So, it is clear that he has admitted that there is political instability.  With that in mind, how does he intend to address this situation because hyper-inflation is a result of political instability?  How then is he going to respond to the political instability which is there so that there is no hyper-inflation?

HON. DR. BIMHA:  Thank you Madam Speaker. I would like to thank the Hon. Member for raising that question.  Madam Speaker, the issue of economic stability is the responsibility of all us.  I thank you.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order, order, Hon. Members. Those who need to bring in supplementary questions – I think we agreed that the Minister is bringing a Ministerial Statement, so if we continue asking the same Minister – we have the whole bench of Ministers and so many questions to ask.  The last supplementary question I am giving to Hon. Ziyambi and you can bring in your question as an original question and not a supplementary question.