The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Debt Assumption Bill sailed through in the National Assembly yesterday despite protests and efforts by MDC-T legislators to thwart it.
The Bill now awaits transmission to the Senate and if passed will be forwarded to President Mugabe for his assent before it becomes law.
The major objective of the Bill is to have Government assume the $1,3 billion the central bank owes to several creditors, the bulk of which was incurred during the mechanisation programme at the height of the quasi-fiscal programmes carried out by the RBZ.
The debate surrounding the Bill was so heated that Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda had to divide the House to determine the way forward.
The Bill then passed after 115 Zanu-PF legislators in the House at that moment voted for its passage against 37 MPs from the MDC-T, who opposed it.
The decision to divide the House came after MDC-T Chief Whip Mr Innocent Gonese called for voting to decide whether the Bill should pass, citing provisions of Standing Orders.
Adv Mudenda said he allowed voting despite the fact that the same Standing Order allowed him to use his discretion to proceed without voting if he was of the view that doing so was a waste of time.
Initially, Mr Gonese had raised a point of order that the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) that issued a non-adverse report on the Bill had not sat to consider amendments proposed by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
Mr Gonese said he and Harare West MP Ms Jessie Majome, both members of the PLC, were not invited to any meeting to consider the Bill.
This was after Adv Mudenda announced that he had received a non-adverse report from the PLC.
Adv Mudenda said the PLC met in February to consider the amendments and urged MPs to research before raising issues to avoid embarrassing themselves.
After its passage, Kuwadzana East MP Mr Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) rose on a point of order to tell the House that his party would pursue legal means to challenge the Bill.
He said those that benefited from Government’s mechanisation programme came to vote so that the State could assume their debts.
In response, Minister Chinamasa castigated the MDC-T for wasting taxpayers’ time through going to the vote on the Bill.
“We cannot be paid for doing what we are doing,” he said. “It is an abuse of taxpayers’ money. I don’t think there was any basis for the point of order. Hon Chamisa has the right to raise this issue in other quarters.”
Three other Bills were tabled before the National Assembly yesterday.
The Public Debt Management Office Bill, Criminal Procedure and Amendment Bill and Marondera University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology Bill were all referred to the PLC for legal scrutiny.
Minister Chinamasa steered the Public Debt Management Office Bill which provides for the functions and administration and repayment of loans by the State, among other issues.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa steered the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Bill which seeks, among other things, to amend the National Prosecuting Authority, while Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Oppah Muchinguri steered the Marondera University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology Bill.