Parliamentary Round Up: Bulletin No. 24 – 2017

Introduction

The National Assembly sat on Thursday 28 September 2017 and the main business of the House was debate on the Ministerial statement by Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa on cash shortages and bank charges. Before he made his statement, Acting Speaker of the House Hon. Reuben Marumahoko (ZANU PF Hurungwe North) announced that Parliament had received a petition from the Institute for Community Development Zimbabwe (ICODZim) beseeching Parliament to exercise its oversight function and protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of persons with disabilities to participate fully in the electoral process. The petition has since been referred to the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

Ministerial Statement on Cash shortages and Bank charges

Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa says Government has gazetted Exchange Control (Amendment) Regulations enacted by His Excellency the President, in terms of Section 2 of the Exchange Control Act in order to deal with cash barons. This follows the fact that the nation is grappling with severe cash shortage which has given rise to informal trade for currency. In the wake of cash shortages and exorbitant bank charges, Members of Parliament last Wednesday requested the Minister to give a Ministerial statement to address the challenges. Minister Chinamasa said the Regulations will empower the police to arrest anyone trading in currency without a licence and seize the cash. Furthermore, he said, the seized currency will be deposited at the Central Bank pending prosecution as the cash will be held as exhibit. He said the regulations also provide for freezing of funds of a corresponding value in a financial institution where such proceeds are the subject of a suspected case of dealing in currency. Minister Chinamasa added that the penalties for the offence of trading in currency are contained in the Exchange Control Act and empower the Court to impose a fine not exceeding the value of the currency and a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years. In addition to the penalty the Court can impose a fine of three times the value of the currency.

On high Ecocash charges, Minister Chinamasa said extra charges being levied by merchants and agents over and above the agreed levels are illegal and the public being abused by these agents should report to Econet and the RBZ.

On multiple pricing Minister Chinamasa said the Bank Use Promotion and Suppression of Money Laundering Act (Chapter 24:24) is being amended in line with Cabinet approval to deal decisively with the issue. The Bill shall be presented to the House soon.

With regards to Bond Notes, Minister Chinamasa said the bond notes have not failed but have helped boost exports and production besides providing a medium of exchange which cannot be externalised.

He said the problem was in the circulation of the bond note currency and there is need to enhance product capacity so as to increase exports.

With respect to the $200 million Afrexim Bank export incentive facility, Minister Chinamasa indicated that $180 million has already been issued which means the facility is about to be exhausted. RBZ is negotiating for a further $300 million to continue boosting exports which have grown by 12 percent to $2,334 billion as at September 8 compared to $2,086 billion last year.

After the presentation, Members generally expressed concern over whether the measures will really assist in dealing with the current crisis. They argued that more needed to be done to have an economic turnaround and arresting perpetrators was not enough. Hon. Tapiwa Mashakada (MDC-T Hatfield) however said the Minister did not address issues to do with recent price increase on basic commodities and shortage of fuel in the country.

The House adjourned at Two Minutes to Six o’clock p.m. until Tuesday, 3rd October, 2017.

Source: Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST)