GIVEN what transpired in Parliament last week, one would be forgiven in the expectation that local government minister, July Moyo, would do the honourable thing and share his July salary with deputy, Marian Chombo.
Legislators, including those from her own Zanu PF party, battered and bruised the junior minister with figurative punches, pulling none, during Parliament’s Wednesday and Thursday sessions.
The raucous debate was over the controversial Pomona and Belarus Fire Tender deals, as well as abuse of devolution funds blamed on her absent boss.
Independent Norton MP, Temba Mliswa, apparently oblivious to – or unconcerned about – the irony that he dished out much of the Chombo pummelling, noted the deputy minister’s plight saying; “… she is being used as a punching bag. You must stop being used as a punching bag; the Hon. Minister (July Moyo) must be here himself.”
Opposition CCC legislator for Pumula, Sichelesile Mahlangu, took pity on a fellow woman under fire saying, “it may sound as if we are attacking the Hon. Deputy Minister. I think it is high time Hon. Minister July Moyo should come and answer.
“I am a woman, it is unfair for me to attack another woman, but I have no choice because July Moyo is always away.”
Devolution funds abuse
The feisty exchanges started Wednesday with CCC deputy leader and former finance minister, Tendai Biti, expressing concern over the fact that the local government Ministry had failed to bring before Parliament a devolution law and was, therefore, disbursing funds without a legal framework guiding the process.
This was in reference to the ministry indicating it would use devolution funds to pay the Pomona contractor after Harare City Council rejected the deal which is fronted by an ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s family.
Chombo then sparked fury by saying when MPs approved the 2022 national budget, they effectively approved disbursement of the devolution money.
Que Mliswa who charged; “We really do not want the Minister to think that we are so ignorant to the fact that you are preoccupied with looting devolution money.
“You have got very cute short hair and I would expect fresh air to be permeating through your brain so that you do not make us stupid, because we cannot come here and you are blindly defending the Minister.
“I see you are also growing white hair like Hon. July Moyo, meaning that you are Siamese twins in terms of corruption and we are tired of this rubbish.
“Are you not ashamed of yourselves? Your husband, Chombo, used to steal, your current Minister is also stealing. Chombo was a better thief but you are stealing in broad daylight.”
In response, Chombo politely said; “Thank you very much Hon. Mliswa. The Act is with the Attorney General’s office. I cannot say when it is coming, but when it is through the office, it will come through. I thank you.”
Fire tenders from Belarus
On Thursday Chombo presented a ministerial statement on government’s decision to acquire fire tenders for local authorities from Belarus.
Biti, one of the country’s leading lawyers, tore to shreds the legal basis of the decision, dismissing the deal as “completely null and void”.
“… there is not a single local authority in Zimbabwe that said as a priority there is a desire for fire tankers,” he said.
“So, the Ministry, with its own ambitions, shall I say corrupt ambitions, has created demand and gone and bought things that the local authorities then considered as a priority.”
None of the MPs who contributed to the debate backed the minister, including those from her own Zanu PF party, whose Chipinge South representative, Enock Porusingazi, remarked; “From the resources that they have in Chipinge, can they match the capacity to pay back compared to Harare?
No high rise buildings in Chipinge!
“Why did you not consider the different sizes of the towns, a small town getting a smaller vehicle? There is no need to have a fire tender with an 80-metre boom in some of these small towns which have no high rise buildings.”
CCC’s Murisi Zwizwai had to be called to order and directed to withdraw the statement by the Speaker after accusing Combo of lying.
“Mr. Speaker Sir. I abide by your ruling that I should withdraw that the Hon Deputy Minister is lying to the nation on behalf of Minister July Moyo on thievery issues and I duly withdraw,” he said.
Mliswa was again forthright in stating that the government could not procure costly fire tenders from Belarus for local authorities that never asked for them.
“We must understand that first of all; do not think we are stupid by saying Government to Government,” he said.
“There is no agreement between the Zimbabwe Government and the local authorities to supply them with fire tenders. Where is the agreement? Do not tell us about these stupid organisations that you want to pick today, firemen, this that and so forth.”
As the MPs figuratively punched and kicked her, hurling, in some instances personal abuse Chombo still managed to maintain her composure, and began every response with “I would like to thank the Hon. Member for the question”.
This earned her the grudging admiration of opposition Mt Pleasant legislator, Samuel Banda, who said; “My first point is just to commend Hon. Chombo. She is a very strong woman. What she is being made to pass through, I think Hon. July Moyo should come to this House and face the music on his own.”
Banda was supported by Kuwadzana East MP, Charlton Hwende, who said; “Hon. Minister July Moyo should come to this House and meet us, the representatives of the ratepayers, because it is not surprising that we have been sold out because they are buying things that people do not want.
“My request is: you engage the Hon. Minister July Moyo to come to this House to respond to these questions.” – NewZimbabwe