MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, has demanded that government reverses and refund Zimbabweans all the money they lost following the introduction of the infamous tax regime, which milks two cents on every dollar for electronic transactions.
Speaking to the Daily News, Chamisa said the Zanu PF–led government is failing to come up with solutions to the country’s economic situation, as they are addressing symptoms, instead of dealing with the causes of the problems.
Describing the new tax as “cruel” and “criminal”, Chamisa said those who have already paid the tax must be refunded their money because the tax regime is not backed by any law.
“They should give back people their money and explain to the people about the issuance of Treasury Bills, who were the beneficiaries? What did they do with the money, (and) how did we end up with a $9 billion debt?
“These are the enquiries that we want, not a commission of inquiry on the August 1 violence, when we know what happened.
“They need a legally-powered body that deals with corruption. Their priorities are wrong, the diagnosis of the problem is also wrong.
“They can’t have answers, because they are focusing on the symptoms,” Chamisa said.
Government is on record, stating that the two percent tax regime is legal and that it was put in place after a wide research.
But, Chamisa who narrowly lost to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a tightly contested July 30 presidential election said the country’s economic situation was a consequence of electoral fraud perpetrated by Zanu PF.
“The ghost of elections cannot just be wished away,” he said, adding that instead of moving on, the country is moving in circles.
Chamisa got 44,3 percent of the vote, while Mnangagwa got 50,6 percent to narrowly snatch victory.
However, events turned sour a few weeks after Mnangagwa’s inauguration, as prices of basic commodities shot up, while some items have disappeared from supermarkets.
The country’s surrogate currency —the bond note — has significantly lost value against the US dollar on the black market, despite the official decree that the two currencies are at par.
Chamisa said they have all the solutions to the country’s economic crisis, adding that the problems needed a political solution.
“It’s an overnight job,” Chamisa said.
In the wake of the economic problems, Mnangagwa has directed the Justice ministry to come up with a set of laws to deal with forex dealers.
These laws, which will operate for six months, will be promulgated through the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act.
Chamisa said Mnangagwa’s stance was tantamount to taking a terrorist approach to the economy.
“Under our still to come alternative government, we have no place for control and command economics.
“The government cannot be the market. (Mr) Mnangagwa is trying to arrest symptoms, without addressing the cause.
“The economic challenges are as a result of expenditure overrun, galloping appetite on the part of government and hyper-inflationary tendencies.
“Instead, they are taking the country back to the old.
“The country needs a fresh set of confidence-building measures and trust-inducing measures, the first thing being the return to legitimacy, the second one being introducing comprehensive root and branch reforms in the economy, in politics, electorally, the third one would be to deal with corruption.
“I don’t know how (Mr) Mnangagwa would be able to deal with that because you can’t deal with yourself,” he said.
He said there was a need for the introduction of a new culture in government.
“There is need for the immediate cancellation and removal of the bond note, ring fence bond note balances, introduce certainty and predictability in the currency, policy consistency within government among other issues.
“It’s called economic dirigisme, which means too much control of things (by the State). Where you temper with election figures, you can’t temper with economic figures.
The economy is very stubborn,” he said.
Meanwhile, economic analysts say Finance minister Mthuli Ncube is running out of time to deal with the current economic crisis.
This comes after Ncube stirred an hornet’s nest by introducing the unpopular two percent tax, which rattled markets.
Acclaimed United States economist Steve Hanke said while Ncube hasn’t been on the job long, he has run out of time and rope — too many meetings and too much nonsensical talk.
“Zimbabwe needs to officially dollarise without any quasi currencies disrupting the system. Bond notes and RTGS are cancers,” he said.
“Through bond notes and RTGS, Zimbabwe has taken a circuitous route to printing money to finance government expenditure.
“That is why inflation by my measure has surged by 177 percent this year,” Hanke said.
The economic crisis has intensified ever since Ncube introduced the two percent tax…. resulting in uncontrollable hoarding of basic commodities and major shortages of fuel and drugs.
At the moment, some retailers are demanding payment in US dollars.
Ncube has called for patience, saying his economic measures require time for significant change to be seen.
This has, however, been met with mixed reactions, with some economists indicating that the Finance minister has had enough time to put order and stability in the failing economy.
Others insist Zimbabweans have no choice but to wait and see the change that these policies might bring.
Economist Simbarashe Gwenzi told the Daily News the current crisis was being caused by speculative behaviour.
In order to quell the effects of the crisis, he said there was need to curtail consumption.
Another economist Kipson Gundani said Ncube’s inconsistency and abruptness in some policies has led to negative economic reactions, especially from the informal sector, which is the largest industry at the moment.
Gundani said it was inevitable that Zimbabweans would have to wait before the austerity measures could bear fruit, adding that Ncube inherited a failing economy.
“It is not easy to cut public expenditure which is at about 90 percent, that means cutting civil service. It needs to be done gradually. As much as…Ncube is the boss of RBZ, most of the monetary challenges are not of his making.
“He didn’t bring bond notes and Zimbabwe is already in a hole, he can either deepen it or alleviate it. If Ncube deepens the hole, then we can judge him,” Gundani said.
The removal of the bond note as a measure to help stabilise the economy has been debated even in Zimbabwe’s Parliament.