FINANCE Minister Tendai Biti last week ordered the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) to seek written approval from his ministry for all trade involving government —— owned shares.
This comes after the ZSE issued a circular to the country’s stockbrokers and dealers to seek permission from his ministry for any trade in government owned shares in line with Section 18 of the Audit and Exchequer Act.
Analysts view the directive as a bid to control the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe which had over the years assumed control of the sale and acquisition of stocks on behalf of government at the height of the country’s economic crisis.
Sources say Biti was annoyed by parcels of government shares sold reportedly at the behest of the central bank since February to local and foreign investors arguing that the stocks the bank sold had been non core.
Biti is also said to have argued that the central bank neither had the authority nor the permission of government when the transactions went through.
Biti cited instances where shares owned by the government went under the hammer on the ZSE without the approval of his ministry and said the conduct was unlawful.
Speculation swirled on the market last month after huge parcels of Dairibord Zimbabwe Limited Holdings (DZL) and AICO stock were offloaded on the market amid rumours that government was behind the sell-off. A stockbroker confirmed receipt of a circular this week and described volumes of DZL Holdings and AICO shares sold since February as “huge” but could not confirm if these had been government shares.
ZSE chief Emmanuel Munyukwi could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print while Biti according to reports denied involvement.
Analysts believe Biti, who has publicly clashed with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono over his role in printing money to allegedly keep the economy alive through provision of concessionary funding to government institutions and a handful of private companies, could be using the law to keep his rival in check.
Biti is said to be after Gono’s scalp but this could prove an uphill task after President Robert Mugabe and service chiefs last week vouched for the central bank head as an honest and patriotic servant of the nation.
BY CHRIS MURONZI