Tendai Biti Barred From Presenting 2010 Budget
Tendai Biti and Robert Mugabe at the presentation of the wishlist masquearding as a policy document - STERP - earlier in the year. With Biti not attending cabinet, Mugabe is now pushing SADC to "see reason" and saying he will have to do something to get the budget through cabinet if Biti will not attend to present it. There are two options being toyed with and both would put the MDC-T on the back foot, because they would be irreversible until the MDC-t starts attending cabinet again. It is one element of the subtle pressure Mugabe is putting on the MDC
Harare, Zimbabwe, 05 November 2009
Tendai Biti, the Finance Minister of Zimbabwe, has effectively been barred from presenting the 2010 National Budget after Mugabe insisted that there will be no deviation from the normal procedures of crafting it and steering it through cabinet.
The Budget is supposed to be presented to Cabinet first for approval, and then to parliament, which then votes on it. The "disengagement" by MDC-Tsvangirai means that Tendai Biti can not attend Cabinet meetings, hence can not present the National Budget to Cabinet.
Because it can not be presented to cabinet, the Budget will not be able to be presented to parliament. By Biti, at least.
Mugabe and ZANU PF are rubbing their hands in glee in anticipation: if Biti desperately wants to present the budget, he will have to break the "disengagement" and attend cabinet for approval. That will make a mockery of the current MDC-T position.
Mugabe, who is in Mozambique today with Tsvangirai and Mutambara, has made the issue of the Budget one his points in his presentation to the Troika, where ZANU PF sources say that he will tell the leaders that he can not paralyse the nation on account of the pull-out. He will say that he has no option but to appoint an acting minister of Finance (or ask Gideon Gono to do it, as has been the intention all along) in order to go through the process.
Mugabe has also mulled an especially crafty move:appointing a nominee of the MDC led by Arthur Mutambara as Acting Finance Minister for the purposes of crafting and steering the budget through cabinet and parliament. This would ensure that the budget passes both houses, especially the Lower House, where ZANU PF does not have the numbers by itself.
Mugabe is said to have already spoken to Arthur Mutambara about getting the support of the seven remaining MDC MPs in parliament to pass the budget in case the MDC shoots down one presented by a ZANU PF Acting Minister, in the event that he ends up appointing a ZANU PF member to do the job.
The presentation in Mozambique is likely to stampede the MDC-T into action and may result in their quick return to government. It is unlikely that Biti would let the chance to craft the budget for the whole of next year slip. If he does so and remains "disengaged", then the Acting Minister would pretty much be able to reverse all the directions in which was going, especially with regards to Gideon Gono and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe is hoping that, in Mozambique today, the SADC Troika leaders will see the sense in his plea that government business is being held to ransom by the MDC-T. It is really likely that there will be a repeat of the Gono, Tomana, issue, when the two were appointed while the MDC had signed the GPA but was refusing to consummate it until they were given the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Eventually, they relented without winning anything really. But by then, Mugabe had moved to appoint Gideon Gono and Johannes Tomana. The two are also now part of the "outstanding issues"!
SADC leaders will almost certainly not block Mugabe's proposals on the National Budget and instead seek to pressure the MDC-T to go back into cabinet, continue talking to Mugabe while the business of government, like the Budget, goes ahead.
If the MDC-T refuse this, SADC will then almost certainly just sit back and let Mugabe do what he wants on the budget.
The absence of a Deputy Minister of Finance (a deliberate ploy by Mugabe to ensure that the MDC-T was handed a poisoned chalice and could not blame it on a ZANU PF deputy) makes the way forward very dangerous indeed for Tendai Biti and the MDC-T. If there had been a deputy minister in that ministry, Biti could have by now struck up a working relationship with him and would be able to influence the final product.
As things stand, we are set to see ZANU PF get back control of the Finance portfolio and the budget process this year, which will influence next year's activities. The earliest Biti would be able to correct matters would be in June next year, when he presents his mid-term Fiscal Policy Review. Assuming, of course, that the MDC-T goes back into government (which they most likely will not long after today's summit, which will produce nothing the MDC-T wants.)