Harare East MP Tendai Biti (MDC Alliance) yesterday tore into the 2019 National Budget presented by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, saying it violated the Constitution for charging duty on vehicles in foreign currency and incorporating the military in the enforcement of traffic fines.
Contributing to debate on the Finance Bill in the National Assembly, Biti, a Finance minister during the government of national unity, which ran the country between 2009 and 2013, said Ncube’s budget statement failed to address the structural problems affecting the country.
He challenged Ncube to be courageous and declare that the bond note was not at par with the United States dollar and also to demonetise the surrogate currency.
“Firstly, the Finance minister suggested that duty for imported vehicles and other selected commodities must be paid in United States dollars, which is legal tender, but the bond note is also legal tender, and it is unfortunate for the budget to suggest that for certain commodities, duty should be in US dollars. It is illegal,” Biti said.
“Another illegality is that the budget statement says by-elections should be held after every one year or two years, but the Electoral Act is clear that by elections must be within 90 days of a vacancy.”
On traffic fines, Biti said it was illegal for the Executive to interfere with the Judiciary in terms of sentencing of traffic offenders.
Previously, the fines were a maximum $100, but Ncube imposed deterrent penalties of up to $700.
“For the Finance minister to also say that traffic fines must be enforced by the military is also unconstitutional and illegal because the law and order maintenance function is vested on the Zimbabwe Republic Police,” he said.
“He also suggested that many people were using their houses as business premises and that the Department of Customs and Excise and Zimra [Zimbabwe Revenue Authority] must be empowered to carry out searches. The Constitution is clear that there should be privacy of persons and, therefore, Zimra has no power to do the searches.”
Biti also said giving the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) power to retain foreign currency from exporters such as Zimplats was unlawful.
The former Finance minister said the RBZ could not take people’s money and then allocate it.
He said allocation of funds were the duties of Parliament and it was illegal for the RBZ to do so.
On the budget deficit projected at $1,56 billion, Biti said it was grossly understated, given that there were plans by government to increase civil servants’ salaries by 10%. He said the only solution was to pay salaries in US dollar and re-dollarise the economy.