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‘Audit RBZ $1,3 billion debt first’

By Mugove Tafirenyika

HARARE – Civil society organisations have petitioned Jacob Mudenda, the Speaker of the National Assembly, to first audit the central bank’s $1,3 billion debt before adopting the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Debt Assumption Bill.

Former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono leads President Robert Mugabe during a tour of New Donnington Farm in Norton. Pic: Annie Mpalume
Debt Master: Former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono leads President Robert Mugabe during a tour of New Donnington Farm in Norton last year. It was under Gono’s tenure that the RBZ piled on the $1,3 billion debt that had nothing to do with its core activities. Pic: Annie Mpalume (Daily News)

The petition, undersigned by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) and its affiliate members including African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (Afrodad) and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, called for an official audit of the $1,3 billion debt to increase democratic accountability over the country’s finances and help give Zimbabwe’s citizens control over their economy.

The petition was handed to Mudenda last Thursday.

The petitioners expressed concern that the parliamentary debates did not focus on substantive issues and further accused the legislature of debating the matter in a partisan manner.

The legislature was accused of proceeding to consider the Bill without carrying out a “public, transparent and participatory audit of the debt as well as disclosing the beneficiaries”.

“Now therefore, the petitioners beseech the National Assembly of the Parliament of Zimbabwe to urge Members of Parliament to reject the Bill as the economy and taxpayers cannot afford to take-over of such a huge debt,” reads the petition.

The civic society groups called on the august House to set up a Public Debt Commission bringing together representatives from various stakeholders to conduct the debt audit.

Through a parliamentary Debt Audit Commission, Zimbabweans will get to know what loans the government of Zimbabwe acquired; for what purpose, and whether or not the borrowed money was actually used for its intended purpose.

They also recommended that the RBZ first liquidate its non-core assets to pay off the debt. The apex bank has interests in Astra Holdings, Cairns Holdings, Homelink and Carslone Enterprise.

“We call upon Parliament to enact a law that sets limits on borrowings by the State, the public debt and debts and obligations whose payment or repayment is guaranteed by the State as prescribed by Section 300 of the Constitution,” the petition says.

Mudenda was unreachable for comment.

The civic society groups called for transparency in the handling of all transactions involving the national debt.

“We are worried about the devastating effects on the economy arising from the debt take-over; and extremely concerned about the glaring conflict of interest arising from the MPs voting on the Bill when they are beneficiaries.”

Other organisations who are signatories to the petition include the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association, National Youth Development Trust, the Southern and East African Trade Information and Negotiation Institute of Zimbabwe.

Opposition MDC MPs have threatened to sink the Bill until an audit has been conducted. Daily News