Zimbabwe Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube is to present his mid-term review on Thursday.
The minister has been under pressure to issue a ministerial statement on what the country is doing to address rising inflation and a collapsing local currency.
Chief Fortune Charumbira who was temporary president of the Senate during question time on Thursday, said he had received a letter stating that Ncube would not be able to issue a ministerial statement on the state of affairs in the country as he would be presenting his mid-term review on 28 July.
The Zimbabwe dollar has plunged to $950 to the United States dollar though the auction rate is $403.40, the cash rate,$500 , and the mobile money rate, $650.
Contractors involved in infrastructure development projects have been accused of dumping huge sums of money into the black market to get the US dollar.
Q & A:
HON. SEN. ENG. MUDZURI: My point of order is that it is unfortunate that the Deputy President of Senate has gone away. Last week we were promised that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development was going to come here to tell us about the gold coins, but today there are no Ministers. Can you be proud to run a House with four Ministers, answering questions on a Thursday when the economy is so down? My point of order is when are we going to get Ministers to come and answer questions and properly represented by the Leader of the House?
THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT OF SENATE (HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA): Having been absent last week, I will have a partial answer. I am not sure about other Ministers, we have a list of those that have sent in apologies but with respect to the Minister of Finance, I am going to read his letter to the President of the Senate. I proceed, it is dated 19th July, 2022. It says:-
We acknowledge receiving communication that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Hon. Prof. Ncube is required to address the Senate on issues to do with the prevailing macro-economic environment
The Minister is currently presenting the Mid-Term Budget Review, of which it has already been presented to the Cabinet Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. He is presenting to Cabinet today. [That was on the 19th July, 2022]. The presentation to Parliament is on 28 July, 2022. Madam President, we are therefore kindly requesting your permission if Senate can indulge the Minister to present the Mid-Term Budget Review to Parliament first and then attend to the issues raised by Senate. The Hon. Minister, fully appreciates the importance, urgency and the need to address the issues raised by the Senate. Please accept Madam President, the assurances of my highest consideration by the Minister’s Office.
I think this sounds clear.
HON. SEN. ENG. MUDZURI: From what he wrote, we are supposed to get a Mid-Term Budget without understanding the meaning of certain terms around the same budget. I thought the Minister is supposed to explain to us so that we will be able to listen to him and understand what he is trying to do. It will be like revision where after the Budget, that is when he will be trying to explain and we will try to recall what was there. To me, it was necessary that the Minister comes here to explain what is exactly happening. How can we have a Mid-Term Budget when we do not even understand what the fundamentals around are? That will not make us an august House. I think the Minister should come to this House even Tuesday next week so that we understand the fundamentals or he can send another Minister.
THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Thank you Hon. Mudzuri for that. I think Ministers of Finance, when they intend to present anything to do with the budget, whether it is mid-term or not, usually they come up with some economic policies, surprises or otherwise – probably he is trying to avoid preempting what he is going to present next week on Thursday. Probably the issue of gold coins, I believe he is getting information from the public. I have confidence that he will explain if there is confusion around those gold coins. If he does not, as is always the procedure, we as Parliamentarians will have the opportunity to raise questions. We will have an opportunity to follow-up on that mid-term budget presentation. We are likely to get all the clarifications. For now, let us give the benefit of the doubt that his intentions are good and sound and he is going to achieve what we desire to get from him next Thursday. Short of that, Parliament will still raise questions for clarification.
The issue of course, was of decline in numbers of Ministers on Thursday afternoons in this Chamber to respond to questions. I believe this issue was raised last week and I believe letters have been written to various Ministers. We had a long list of apologies, fortunately the Clerk of Parliament is here, he is also listening – we will assist each other to raise this issue. Thank you.
HON. SEN. ENG. MUDZURI: To me I think it is the responsibility of the President of Senate, I am sure that she can write to the President to ensure that Ministers come to the House. I do not think the Clerk can go that far. He can only write a formal letter and the whole meaning of this is to make sure that we present questions to different Ministers has no meaning anymore because we have complained and nothing has happened, unless the Government has decided to be dysfunctional. Without ministers, the Government is dysfunctional. So if we cannot ask questions and continue to give excuses to say let so and so speak – it is the President of Senate who should be able to take this up with the Speaker and ensure that the Ministers are there.
I want to put it to you that it is your responsibility to ensure that the Ministers attend.
THE TEMPORARY PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Indeed, for now I am the Acting President of Senate. Whenever you say the President of Senate should do this, you are actually requesting me to proceed accordingly and I want to underline accordingly. When I refer to the Clerk, I am saying my support staff is also here so that this matter will not end in this Chamber. I thank you