‘Cabinet is dead’

Finance minister Tendai Biti on Tuesday said government was in a state of paralysis, describing Cabinet as “deadwood”.\r\n

He also told Parliament the mid-term budget statement he presented last week was a “crisis statement” that needed urgent solutions.

The minister was responding to MPs’ contributions on a motion on the Finance Bill, which was set to be passed by the House of Assembly last night before it is taken to Senate.

He took a swipe at Chinese mining operations at Anjin, which he said were siphoning proceeds from diamond mining out of the country without any meaningful investments.

“We need to address our ugly politics and crisis leadership because we have a dead Cabinet and I have never seen dead people who are alive than those ones,” said Biti.

“There is a disease of assuming money grows on trees. I am not angry, but I am sad because our problems are self-induced, policy distortions and lack of strong leadership to deal with our problems and
everything is rotten especially at the top.”

He said Cabinet had formulated brilliant policies like STERP, but they all suffered stillbirths due to lack of implementation. MPs across the political divide agreed with Biti and chairman of the Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion Portfolio Committee, Paddy Zhanda went further to describe the GNU as irreparably discordant.

He said he was shocked that Cabinet agreed on Biti’s mid-term fiscal policy statement, but barely 24 hours after its presentation, some among the ministers were disowning it.

“We are appealing to government to be serious because the Finance minister is trying to repair a battered vehicle whose chassis is bent, diesel is oozing out, it has no lights, no starter, windows and windscreen is shattered, the boot, bonnet and all doors are secured by wire and the driver himself has no licence and the economy has a lot of problems,” said Zhanda.

Biti also took a dig at Anjin, saying despite diamond production increasing by 129% between January and June — from 2,4 million to about 450 million carats; only $41 million was remitted to government when the expectation was $600 million.

“We have a mine called Anjin, capable of producing two million carats, 52% gem quality and 46% industrial, yet during the first half of the year, a small mine like Mbada Diamonds brought in $2 million while Anjin brought only $200 000. But it is the same Anjin building hotels and when we complain they say sanctions,” Biti said.

“We have been saying Marange Resources or ZMDC where we have a 50% stake should be in Anjin. Mbada is also conscious of protecting the environment, while Anjin is busy cutting baobab trees and making baobab soup.

If the Chinese are our friends, their investment must be ethical. In Africa they got their fools in Zimbabwe because in other countries they are able to build freeways, ports, pipelines, dams, yet here they build only hotels,” Biti said.

The minister also complained that Treasury was being prejudiced of about $1 million every month through illegal activities by police. The Registrar General’s Office too, was making a killing, he said, but was not remitting enough. – NewsDay