Members of Parliament from across the Zimbabwe political divide on Thursday unanimously rejected Robert Mugabe’s bid to get backing for an instrument that would have allowed him to invoke presidential powers, and force government to take over a private company’s massive debt.
It parliament gives its nod, the country’s cash-strapped government would take over Premier Service Medical Aid Society’s (PSMAS) $144 million debt.
On July 16, had Mugabe gazetted a statutory instrument (SI) that prohibits the issuing of attachment orders on State property.
He invoked his presidential powers to protect PSMAS properties from being attached by service providers over the debt.
Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) chairperson, Jonathan Samukange, said, “We looked at the SI as the PLC and our view is that it violates the State Liabilities Act (Chapter 8:14), which states that imposing liabilities on the State can only be done for parastatals or any arm of government,” Samukange said.
“PSMAS is not an institution considered as either a parastatal or an arm of government. It is a private entity consisting of subscribers, some of whom are civil servants.
“We as your committee are worried that if we allow such practice that government takes over debts of a private institution, we do not see why the public should be burdened by debts incurred by a private institution.”
Ruling Zanu PF legislator Munyaradzi Kereke, argued that approving the instrument would set a bad precedent.
“We want to support the committee and say let us not set a dangerous unstoppable precedent. Let us not cover for institutions and the Executive’s profligacy by taking over their debts.
“The reason why PSMAS is indebted is because of mismanagement and lack of corporate governance.
We know a lot of abuse that led to the indebtedness,” he said.
Joseph Chinotimba, also a Zanu PF MP, proposed the arrest of former PSMAS chief executive officer, Cuthbert Dube and his management and attachment of their properties to recover the money owed to suppliers and service providers.
“This is outright corruption. We are suffering economically, we have no electricity and we cannot afford to help PSMAS.
Opposition MDC-T parliamentarian Thabitha Khumalo vowed to organise mass demonstrations aimed at blocking future passage of the Statutory Instrument.
MDC legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi- Mushonga said: “We should be here worrying about providing basic health care to the people and not dealing with private issues of PSMAS. I am disappointed that (Finance minister Patrick) Chinamasa and his deputy are not even in this House as we debate. We should throw this out with the contempt it deserves because it is trivialising us.”