Zimbabwe MPs humiliated overseas over govt debt

Zimbabwe’s Parliament has over 12-year-old debt arrears owed to regional and international parliamentarian organisations, Parliament heard recently.

This comes after Zimbabwe’s national debt has remained at its peak standing at more than $18,4 billion.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has been struggling to service both external and internal debts which have wreaked havoc in the country’s economy.

Zengeza West MDC legislator Job Sikhala told MPs in the National Assembly last week that Zimbabwe’s parliamentarians are humiliated when they attend international platforms representing the country’s Parliament due to long outstanding debts.

“Chairman, the most concerning issue why I want to contribute to this vote is that… minister, do you understand that our Parliament is a member to a number of international organisations where we participate in various activities as part and parcel of international integration.

“Our members who have been attending those meetings…chairman, come back home humiliated when Zimbabwe’s membership arrears are 10 years back.

“I still remember when I went to Geneva to attend the IPU meeting with the former Speaker; the late John Landa Nkomo said Zimbabwe was among only five states that had outstanding arrears to the IPU.

“If we ask the Speaker today and his delegation to the IPU, Zimbabwe is still in arrears 12 years back. Does the minister know that?” he said.

Zimbabwe is a member state of Parliamentary Assemblies that include to Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (Sadc-PF), Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), African (sub-Saharan), Caribbean and Pacific – European Union (ACP-EU) and Public Accounts Committees of African legislature (Afro PAC).

The platforms are global associations which foster international dialogue, cooperation and regional integration of national parliaments from all continents.

Member states finance the organisations, but Zimbabwe has been seemingly lagging for the past 12 years.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube in response said that Zimbabwe also has other arrears with embassies which he said were due to lack of foreign currency.

“Sikhala raised similar issues on increasing the resource envelope on the role of Parliament that is correct. The issue of arrears is about the availability of foreign currency,” he said.

However, some of the debts are reportedly dating back to a time when there were no foreign currency shortages.

“It is not just arrears in terms of Parliament; it is a whole lot of international arrears, including debt and the debt is being dealt with separately.

“We are also in arrears with embassies and we continue to make best effort in raising foreign currency to clear these arrears so that Sikhala and others can participate as full members of the international community without the embarrassment that they have suffered in the past,” he added.

Meanwhile, organisations such as the World Bank and African development Bank International Monetary Fund (IMF) have told the Zimbabwean government to clear arrears to unlock new finances which were sealed around 2000 when the country defaulted its payment.

Imports have remained higher than exports making it a difficult task to regenerate the economy and secure enough foreign currency to finance retailers as well as pay arrears to international creditors.

On the other hand State-owned enterprises are under-performing, swamped with arrears which have drained more than half a billion dollars over the last two years due to perennial loss-making.

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