Former Finance minister Tendai Biti has called on Parliament to rein in new Treasury chief Mthuli Ncube for not prioritising debate on the 2019 Budget instead prioritising foreign travel.
Describing the action as “disrespect,” Biti, who is also the opposition MDC deputy national chairperson, hit out at Ncube at the start of Thursday’s debates in the National Assembly which focused on the 2019 National Budget.
The Harare East MDC MP said the minister should have at least sent in representatives to take notes on his behalf if he was not contemptuous of Parliament.
“I am concerned that the minister of Finance and Economic Development has taken leave off the country during the week that Parliament is debating the country’s most important fiscal instrument — the budget,” Biti — who was given the floor on a point of privilege — complained.
Acting National Assembly Speaker William Mutomba explained that Ncube sought leave of the House and had sent in his apologies. He said Ncube was away in the US on government business.
Mutomba said Parliament had noted Biti’s concerns and also explained that Ncube had indeed sent in representatives from the ministry.
“We have taken note of your point of order but could I just shed light on some of the MPs who are not aware that the minister actually is in New York at the moment and he has sent his apologies but, we do have in the House officers from the ministry of Finance and Economic Development who are taking notes,” Mutomba said.
Biti shot back saying “there are no officials from the ministry of Finance and Economic Development, they are not there.”
After being called out, Mutomba suggested that the officials had been delayed by the rains that pounded the capital city that afternoon and claimed they were on their way.
“It is just my hope that they have been delayed because of this rainfall. I believe that they are coming but, the position is that everything is being recorded in the Hansard but I will keep note of your concern,” Mutomba assured Biti.
Biti had also accused Cabinet ministers of disrespecting MPs by not turning up for parliamentary business.
“This is disrespect, utter contempt and utter abuse of this august House. It is the first time in the history of the country that a minister of Finance and Economic Development takes leave of absence when the budget is being debated.
“It is not acceptable, it is not good enough and we as Parliament must reject that,” Biti fumed.
Meanwhile, in an exclusive wide ranging interview with the Mail and Telegraph on Thursday in Harare, Biti described Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube as weak.
He said Ncube is a complete waste of time since he is not consistent in his policy announcements. Biti who served as Finance Minister during the Government of National Unity said Ncube lacks character. Said Biti:
He is an amateur and weak, this economy requires someone who is strong, someone who can look the beast in the eye because Zanu PF is a beast. They will not allow reforms and as a matter of fact, there is no regime that has ever reformed itself out of power. e is a complete waste of time.
Part of his problem is that he doesn’t have character, he doesn’t have honesty and he doesn’t have consistency. He suffers from what I call foot and mouth disease which is a disease that you say something today and you reverse it tomorrow. His first announcement was that he is going to demonetise the bond note and he reversed that. He once said that the bond note can never be equal to the US dollar and he reversed the statement again.