HARARE, Feb 11– Debate on the Reserve Bank Debt Assumption Bill in Zimbabwe’s National Assembly has sharply divided the House along political lines with ruling Zanu PF party legislators supporting its adoption while those from the opposition Movement for democratic change (MDC) were adamant in rejecting it.

The Bill seeks to provide a legal framework for the government to take over the 1.1 billion US dollar debt of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

Zanu PF legislators threw their weight behind the Bill arguing that the debt had been accrued at a critical time when the government was fighting the effects of Western imposed sanctions on the economy. The West imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe — a move estimated to have cost the economy more than 40 billion USD — over a decade ago due to sharp political differences over the country’s land reform.

Buhera Central Member of Parliament Ronald Muderedzwa likened the fight against sanctions to a war situation. “In a war situation, there is no formula, no book economics,” he said, to applause from other ruling party legislators. “Let bygones be bygones. Assumption of the debt will allow the RBZ to revert to its core roles.”

Chiredzi North MP Robert Mukwena said the people who were at the helm of the central bank at the time, including former Governor Dr Gideon Gono, must be given medals for the role they played in saving the economy.

“Dr Gono and Dr (Munyaradzi) Kereke must be given medals,” he said. Kereke was at the time an adviser to Gono before their acrimonious fallout.

Chegutu West legislator Dexter Nduna lauded the government for the sterling role it played while dismissing criticism leveled against the central bank for overstepping its mandate by undertaking quasi-fiscal activities that led to accumulation of the debt.

MDC legislators, however, opposed passage of the Bill and were adamant that those who benefited from the RBZ activities should pay back what they owed. It was critical that government promoted accountability and
transparency by naming those who benefited and asking them to pay back, they said.

Bulawayo East legislator Thabita Khumalo said writing off the debt should not be considered. “We cannot accept that stealing is normal,” she said. “This Bill must not go through, we must name and shame the
beneficiaries and not burden the workers of this country.”

Mbizo legislator Settlement Chikwinya said the Bill was trying to “destroy evidence” of those who benefited from state resources. “I will not support it because it is shying away from transparency and
accountability,” he said.

Debate on the Bill continues at a later date.