It was meant to be finance minister Professor Mthuli Ncube’s chance to win the trust of the Zimbabwean public and business sector, as he tried to stir the country’s economy in a positive direction when he presented the 2019 budget in parliament on Thursday.
His presentation overshadowed the Kgalema Motlanthe-led commission of inquiry into the post-election August 1 killings, which were largely blamed on the army and its involvement in civilian politics.
During his statement, the finance minister noted that political stability was key for the country to realise economic progression.
“Growth will be anchored on good governance and promotion of democratic principles,” he said against the backdrop of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance constantly arguing that the country’s problems were largely based on the fact that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government lacked political legitimacy.
It didn’t take long for conflict to rear its ugly head in parliament when opposition legislators were violently chased out after they refused to honour Mnangagwa’s arrival.
MDC Alliance spokesperson and parliamentary chief whip Thabitha Khumalo collapsed during a scuffle that involved the police.
Ncube walked a tightrope in his presentation. He preached “austerity for prosperity”, similar to what Tendai Biti argued for during his time as finance minister.
However, as an opposition finance minister under Robert Mugabe, Biti’s words fell on deaf ears.
Ncube announced an intention to cut the salaries of cabinet ministers and senior civil servants by 5%. His budget-beating antics will also affect heads of government-owned companies.
“Effective January 1 2019, a 5% cut on basic salary be effected for all senior positions, from principal directors, permanent secretaries and their equivalents, up to deputy ministers, ministers and the praesidium.
“This is also extended to basic salaries of those in designated posts in state-owned enterprises (CEOs, executive directors and equivalent grades),” he said.
Last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) advised Zimbabwe to cut its civil service, which took up 90% of the country’s budget. Doing so would give government leverage to improve social services such as health and education, infrastructure development and power-generation projects.
But at the time, heading towards watershed elections where the provision of jobs was a key promise, the Zimbabwe government ignored the call.
However, Ncube took heed of the IMF’s advice. Ghost workers, mostly Zanu PF youths, known as “youth officers”, who run into thousands will be laid off.
The minister also revealed that all government property, especially vehicles, will be under strict surveillance. For the first time since independence, government vehicles are to be left at the workplace at the end of the day or taken to the nearest police station for safe-keeping.
By the time the budget was presented, the 92-page document had found its way onto social media.
Tendai Moyo said: “We have a problem as Zimbabweans of being negative about everything. We have taken no time to learn of the power we have to hold the government to account on promises they make.
We must collectively, regardless of political affiliation, hold the government to account on this budget speech.”
But the most underwhelming part for most ordinary citizens was the failure to address bond notes, the local surrogate currency that has lost more than 400% value against the American dollar.
“I thought he would tell us that the bond notes are a thing of the past and maybe announce new measures. Instead, he showed us that government is still hard pressed for foreign currency because now we have to pay in forex for goods that we import into the country especially cars,” said Brian Shoko.
Shoko fears another fuel price hike after Mthuli Ncube announced an increase in excise duty of seven cents per litre on diesel and paraffin and 6.5 cents on petrol.
“It’s common sense that a fuel hike has a direct effect on goods and services. We are going to have a gloomy Christmas,” he said.
Among the key announcements were:
5% pay cut for cabinet and deputy ministers, senior civil servants and Zimbabwe government-owned company bosses;
Close eight foreign embassies;
Fire youth officers hired by Zanu PF and integrated into the Zimbabwe government wage bill; and
Budget pegged at $8.16bn for 2019.
African Union’s Inclusion in G20: A Significant Acknowledgment of a Continent with 1 Billion Inhabitants
The world’s most powerful economies, the G20, have welcomed the African Union (AU) as a permanent member, recognising Africa’s more than 50 countries as important players on the global stage. US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both expressed support for the AU’s permanent membership.
The AU has advocated for full membership for seven years and, until now, South Africa was the only African country in the G20. The AU represents a continent with a young population of 1.3 billion, which is set to double by 2050 and make up a quarter of the world’s population.
Africa’s 55 member states have long pushed for meaningful roles in global bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, and want reforms to the global financial system. The continent is increasingly attracting investment and political interest from global powers like China, Russia, Gulf nations, Turkey, Israel, and Iran. African leaders are challenging the framing of the continent as passive victim and want to be brokers instead.
They seek fairer treatment by financial institutions, delivery of rich countries’ long-promised $100 billion a year in climate financing for developing nations, and a global tax on fossil fuels. The AU’s full G20 membership will enable it to represent a continent that’s home to the world’s largest free trade area and abundant resources needed to combat climate change. The African continent has 60% of the world’s renewable energy assets and over 30% of the minerals key to renewable and low-carbon technologies.
African leaders want more industrial development closer to home to benefit their economies. Finding a common position among the AU’s member states, from economic powers to some of the world’s poorest nations, can be challenging, but Africa will need to speak with one voice to influence G20 decision-making. African leaders have shown their willingness to take collective action, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a high-profile G20 member, Africa’s demands will be harder to ignore.
Forging Strong Bonds: Iran and Zimbabwe Deepen Economic Ties in Raisi’s Africa Tour
On Thursday, Zimbabwe and Iran signed 12 memorandums of understanding to strengthen their bilateral ties during Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to Africa. Raisi had previously visited Kenya and Uganda before meeting with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare. Among the 12 MOUs is a plan to establish a tractor manufacturing plant in Zimbabwe with the help of an Iranian company and a local partner. The two countries also signed agreements for cooperation in energy, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications, as well as research, science, and technology projects.
Mnangagwa expressed his appreciation for investments in several sectors of Zimbabwe’s economy to reporters after the signing ceremony. However, he did not disclose the amount of investment Zimbabwe is expecting from Iran. Raisi mentioned the economic challenges facing Iran and Zimbabwe due to U.S. sanctions but emphasised his country’s efforts to build closer economic ties.
According to Iran’s foreign ministry, trade with Africa is expected to exceed $2 billion this year, but there was no comparison to the previous year’s figures. This African visit is the first by an Iranian leader since 2013, following a visit to three Latin American countries in June, all of which are also affected by U.S. sanctions.
Breaking News: E-Creator Fraud Ring Leader Apprehended by Police
The Zimbabwe Republic Police is requesting that individuals who have been deceived by E-Creator, Zhao Jiaotong come forward and report to the nearest police station.
According to police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, the kingpin of the E-Creator Ponzi scheme has been arrested on charges of fraud. The suspect is identified as Chinese national Zhao Jiaotong, who is said to be the founder of the notorious platform that has scammed people out of thousands of dollars.
Nyathi stated, “The Zimbabwe Republic Police confirms the arrest of Zhao Jiaotong, 39, in connection with a case of fraud in which unsuspecting members of the public were duped through the E-Creator Ponzi scheme.”
The police are urging anyone who may have fallen victim to E-Creator to report to their nearest police station. Additionally, the public is encouraged to exercise caution and perform thorough research before investing in any Ponzi or pyramid schemes that promise quick returns.