By Mugove Tafirenyika
Under-fire deputy Finance minister Terrence Mukupe has claimed he enjoys a good working relationship with his boss Patrick Chinamasa.
This comes amid reports of fierce run-ins between the two at their New Government Complex offices located at corner Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo Street (4th Street) and Samora Machel Avenue in Harare.
Since their inauguration as minister and deputy in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government in November, there have been reports that Chinamasa and Mukupe do not see eye to eye.
The source of their friction, ministry insiders said, stem from the fact that Mukupe is an ambitious deputy working too hard to prove to Mnangagwa that he could run the ministry.
Chinamasa reportedly fears he is undermining him.
Mukupe told the Daily News on Sunday that the reports of a strained relationship were a figment of the media’s imagination.
“In fact, my boss and I work very well. Our relationship is excellent to the extent that he treats me like I am his own son,” Mukupe said.
“Those who are saying we do not see eye to eye are creating a non-existent feud. All is well at the ministry and I have never sought to undermine my boss.”
This comes amid indications of apparent policy incongruence, with Chinamasa and Mukupe contradicting each other at every turn.
In January, Mukupe suggested that there was consensus in government that bond notes have largely served their purpose and are “not tenable” within the context of Zimbabwe’s new economic growth trajectory—a position that was swiftly and vehemently dismissed by Chinamasa
“The official position is that we have bond notes in place, but that situation is not tenable. But we cannot have our own currency at the moment because fundamentals are not in place.
“We need to have sufficient resources and increase exports for us to introduce our own currency. As long as we have Zidera (the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act), we can’t do that,” said Mukupe.
Barely a week later, Chinamasa announced that the surrogate currency will remain in use until the economy recovers enough to sustain its own monetary unit.
“Bond notes will stay until we have our own local currency. The governor (of the central bank, John Mangudya) and myself have been at pains to spell out the macroeconomic fundamentals that we need to put right before we can do that,” Chinamasa said.
“We need to address the budget deficit, the issue of exports and we need to build foreign currency reserves of at least three months…”
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe 9RBZ) introduced the surrogate currency on November 28, 2016 as an export incentive meant to boost foreign currency generation.
Last week, the gaffe-prone Mukupe claimed that Zimbabwe’s economic problems have been partly caused by incompetent ministers of Finance with no background in finance, in what was interpreted as a broadside at his boss, who is a lawyer by profession.
“The problem we have in Zimbabwe is we have ministers who are non-finance people making decisions on financial matters hence the country is in such a situation,” Mukupe said while addressing university students at a function organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Students Union (Zicosu) in Harare.
“The problem that we have had in Zimbabwe is we had a proper guy running the Finance ministry and that was the late Bernard Chidzero and I think that was the last time our country had a surplus.
“And then when you look at the decisions that the Finance ministers have always been making whenever they have the issues with the budget, their default has always been to increase taxes. That is all you need to tell there has been limited capacity of thinking.”
This comes as Mukupe has hogged the limelight over the past week, Government was last week forced to issue a stern warning against the deputy minister after claiming the military will stop the mainstream MDC from assuming power even if it wins the forthcoming elections.
This comes as the international community is closely watching the next elections, due at the end of July, which President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said should be free and fair.
Soon after that gaffe, Mukupe drew widespread condemnation again on Thursday after he claimed on State radio that opposition politician and former Cabinet minister Tendai Biti is on HIV treatment.
Biti was invited to the studio after Mukupe had described him as the country’s worst ever Finance minister. Biti was invited to debate this point with Mukupe, who repeatedly interjected while the PDP leader was speaking.
A fuming Biti then slammed Mukupe, saying he was unhinged.
“Ndozvanda mbotaura zviye zviye kuti nyaya dzenyika hadzisi nyaya dzemubhawa, hadzisi nyaya dzembanje (that’s why I said matters of State are not pub talk),” said Biti.
“If you hold a public office you must be serious; you can’t be a clown. So, kundidaidza kuno (inviting me) to come and debate with such a clown, I find it very demeaning.”
A furious Mukupe, perhaps in an unguarded moment, said: “If you are going to start trading insults … can you take that back! Biti has a problem of always resorting to insults.
“Every time you do an interview you want to insult people; present facts, don’t insult. Just deal with facts don’t insult people Mr Biti.
“Wambonwa mapiritsi ako here nhasi (did you take your tablets today)?”
The programme presenter called Mukupe to order, saying they were on air and demanding some decorum.
But Mukupe would have none of it: “Iye anondiudza zvekudhakwa, iye anwa maARV ake here nhasi (he (Biti) talks about me being a drunkard, but did he take his ARV tablets today).”
The remarks have attracted widespread scorn, with many calling for his dismissal as deputy minister.
A day later, Mukupe assaulted Newsday journalist, Blessed Mhlanga’s wife during a radio debate to discuss a story that appeared on the front page of the daily where he threatened that opposition leader Nelson Chamisa would never be allowed to be president by the army.
Mukupe alleged Mhlanga had been paid to sully his reputation, an assertion strenuously denied by the journalist.
A furious Mukupe reportedly rose and assaulted Mhlanga, with his wife recording the attack on her Samsung S7 Edge mobile.
Mukupe reportedly assaulted Mhlanga’s wife and seized her phone. Mhlanga then drove to Highlands Police Station to lodge a report against the minister, only to find him there lodging his own report against Mhlanga.
Yesterday, Mukupe issued an apology over the three transgressions, claiming some of his statements had been misinterpreted, and that he had also been deeply provoked. Daily News